Acquisition Doesn’t Mean CommoditizationBy David Mortman
There has been plenty of discussion of what HP’s recent acquisition of Fortify means in terms of commoditization and consolidation in the market. The reality is that most acquisitions by large vendors are about covering perceived holes in their product line. In other words this is really just the market acknowledging the legitimacy of the product or feature set. Don’t get me wrong – legitimization is very important, but it doesn’t necessarily mean either consolidation or commoditization, though they both indicate some level of legitimization.
Commoditization is actually at odds with consolidation. Like legitimization, they are both important aspects of the product/market maturity curve. Consolidation is when the number of vendors in a market radically decreases due to acquisitions by larger vendors (HP, IBM, McAfee, Symantec – you get the idea) or straight failures causing companies to shut down. Consolidation – especially the acquisition type – indicates that the product space is beginning to be legitimized in the eyes of customers.
At the other end of the legitimization/maturity curve we have commoditization. This is where the market has completely legitimized the product space, and in fact there is little to no innovation going on there. Essentially all the products have become morally equivalent, and as far as customers are concerned there is little or no compelling technical reason to choose one vendor over another. At that point it comes down to cost: which vendor will provide the product at the lowest capital and operational costs?
De-consolidation is also correlated with commoditization. One key indicator of commoditization is an increase in the number of vendors. A great example of this is desktops, laptops, and servers. They are pretty much all the same and it’s really a question of which nameplate is on the front. In the security space, you can see this clearly with firewalls/routers for small offices & homes (“SOHO”), and we are starting to see it with AV as well.
As for HP buying Fortify, it’s neither consolidation nor commoditization. The market hasn’t shifted in either direction enough for those. It is, however, legitimization of code auditing tools as a product category.