IBM is buying Solid Information Technology, a maker of high-performance databases and a close partner of IBM rival MySQL.
Solid makes an embedded database with in-memory database engine, which means it can store and retrieve data from main memory, giving faster performance than traditional disk-based systems.
That makes it popular for applications that require very fast processing times, such as routing calls in a phone network or trading stocks. Solid's customers include Cisco Systems, Siemens, TeliaSonera, and Nokia, according to its Web site.
IBM agreed to acquire the company for an undisclosed sum and expects the deal to close in the first quarter of 2008, IBM announced Friday. It said the deal will enhance its database line-up by adding real-time data access capabilities. IBM rival Oracle acquired an in-memory database two years ago, from TimesTen.
The IBM acquisition may be seen as a setback for MySQL, since it marks the loss of independence of another company that makes a high-performance transaction engine for MySQL's database.
Two years ago Oracle bought Innobase, which made the most popular MySQL transaction engine. Oracle continues to license InnoDB to MySQL, but the acquisition prompted MySQL to look for alternatives.
One of those was Solid, which joined MySQL's storage engine certification program and released an open-source version of its database engine for MySQL.
Arvind Krishna, IBM's vice president of data servers, would not confirm whether the company would continue to develop MySQL. "It's a little premature to say anything about that," he said. "Up front, I don't have a particular bias.... The other side of it could be that both sides take a look at it and say it doesn't make sense."
However, MySQL is also developing its own transaction engine, so in the long term, it will be less dependant on partners. Called Falcon, the engine is due to ship with MySQL 6.0, which is due for wide release late next year.
IBM has already had a partner agreement with Solid. Purchasing it outright gives IBM a stronger play against Oracle TimesTen, according to Krishna. "That's an area we believe we can now compete in and win," he said.
Krishna said existing Solid customers have nothing to fear and "should feel really reassured they have the deeper pockets and reach of IBM."
The executive said the deal should take between three and 12 weeks to close, adding, "I would expect it to be on the lower end of that range."
The acquisition of Solid is IBM's twelfth acquisition this year, it said.
This story was updated on December 21, 2007