Actuate’s Nimble Acquisition

Action adds credibility to company's position in the Enterprise Information Integration market

After a fortnight in which two of the biggest names in production reporting were gobbled up by larger competitors, most industry watchers expected production reporting specialist Actuate Corp. to make a move of some kind.

No one could have expected Actuate to move in the direction it did: picking up Nimble Technology Inc., a purveyor of enterprise information integration (EII) software.

Two weeks ago, business intelligence (BI) powerhouse Business Objects SA purchased Crystal Decisions Inc. for a cool $820 million ( Last week, Hyperion Solutions Corp. nabbed Brio Software Inc. for $142 million ( Like Actuate, Crystal and Brio (by virtue of its 1999 acquisition of Sqribe) were established purveyors of production reporting tools.

Nimble will take Actuate in a new direction, away from pure-play production reporting and BI and toward the burgeoning market for EII solutions.

Nimble markets a self-branded Integration Suite that exploits ODBC and the emerging XML Query standard to facilitate integration among a variety of different data structured and unstructured sources. (For more on XQuery, see This helps to set it apart from other players in a teeming EII space in which Aberdeen analyst Wayne Kernochan has identified the use of XML database integration as a key competitive differentiator.

Actuate has said that it will incorporate Nimble’s XML data integration technology into its Actuate 7 platform. This will enable Actuate customers to pull data from a wider variety of sources—including unstructured data such as Web pages and e-mail—to support their analytics.

“Today’s acquisition furthers Actuate’s strength in providing a single Business Intelligence … platform to create information applications that address the breadth of user needs and the gamut of application scenarios,” said Actuate CEO Pete Cittadini in a statement. Cittadini also reiterated Actuate’s commitment to BI: “Our emphasis remains upon enabling our customers to build and deploy scalable BI applications and this acquisition gives them limitless options to rapidly leverage all kinds of data in a cost effective, yet scalable fashion."

A Call to Action

If you listen to some of Actuate’s competitors tell it, the recent run of consolidation in the BI space has left the company in a vulnerable position.

In an interview last week just prior to the Nimble acquisition, Rob Rose, vice president of corporate strategy for BI giant Cognos Inc., singled out Actuate as one among a handful of vendors that “are out there standing alone all of the sudden. You look at Actuate, they certainly seem awfully lonely. Certainly, there’s other companies that look awfully lonely and seem to have a much steeper hill to climb based on this consolidation,” Rose maintained.

Unlike competitors Business Objects and Hyperion, Rose said that Cognos wasn’t interested in making any acquisitions to strengthen its reporting hand on account of its forthcoming ReportNet tool ( “We looked at some technology players in the market. We found that Actuate, Crystal, they all had some part of the problem nailed, however, they didn’t have the kind of coverage we were looking for,” he notes. “More importantly, they didn’t have the kind of next generation scalable architecture and technology we were looking for.”

Mike Schiff, a senior analyst with consultancy Current Analysis, doesn’t believe that Actuate’s position was nearly as bad as Cognos’ Rose would have us believe. Nevertheless, he concedes, the acquisition is important to Actuate for a couple of reasons. “It positions Actuate as an aggressive acquirer, rather than the only remaining independent enterprise reporting vendor wondering who will acquire it, while making Actuate a more credible vendor in the Enterprise Information Integration market,” he points out.

One concern, allows Schiff, is that Nimble’s technology “is not necessarily a ‘plug and play’ product.” As a result, he speculates, “consulting support may be needed to set up appropriate translation tables when accessing multiple data sources.” Nevertheless, he believes that the acquisition “should benefit both Actuate and its customers.”

Ironically, Nimble touted its support for Crystal Decision’s Crystal Reports when it released version 2.0 of its Integration Suite last year.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.