EMC Federation product teams can’t catch a break. It seems that nearly every time they go to make a new product announcement some wrinkle or rumor around the company’s takeover by Dell emerges and steals the show.
Last week EMC and VMware spinoff Pivotal (which the EMC Federation owns) heralded that its pinnacle product, Cloud Foundry, has added support for Microsoft Azure, Docker, and .NET.
At another time the news might have been received as a big deal, but it quickly fell into the shadows amidst echoing reports that Pivotal might IPO in early 2016, supposedly with Dell’s blessing.
Yesterday Recode reported that the Dell, EMC Federation deal might be derailed by a tax rule which, depending on how it's interpreted, could leave Dell with a $9 billion tax bill.
That news stole the spotlight from EMC Isilon’s “breakthrough” big data storage news.
And though we’ve heard squat as to what Dell might do with EMC’s Enterprise Content Division (ECD) and Documentum there’s this to consider:
Reuters reported last week that Dell, according to its sources, plans to sell-off $10 billion of its software and services assets to pay for EMC.
Dell’s software assets, like database tool Toad and analytics suite Kitenga, among others, may have yet to peak in the big data, analytics world, but they are non-core to Dell’s (and Dell + EMC Federation) business.
The same would be true of EMC’s Content Division and Documentum; in fact, it’s hard to see that there would be any synergies at all.
The Analysts Opinion
Documentum isn’t a great fit within EMC to begin with, according to many analysts. Our article “Will EMC Dump Documentum”, certainly struck a nerve, it was one of CMSWire’s most widely read in 2014.
It was based on a research report written by 451 Research Group analyst Alan Pelz-Sharpe calling for EMC and Documentum to go their separate ways.
A later article, “EMC Should sell Documentum, HP Should Buy It” (Note: it was written a year before HP sold off iManage and split into two companies) made the case for why Documentum wasn’t key to EMC’s survival (EMC’s cloud problem was in the spotlight at the time). It also raised the point that EMC and its C-suite didn’t seem to give Documentum much attention anyways, even when times were good.
In fact, there was is an ongoing joke between Documentum watchers as to whether EMC CEO Joe Tucci would utter the word “Documentum” at the company’s annual conference EMC World.
It’s also interesting to note that one of the few times EMC’s content group (it has had many names — IIG, ECD, among others) did make its way onto the stage during Tucci’s conference keynote, it was Syncplicity that was limelighted. At the time it was the company’s great hope. Last July, EMC sold it off.
The reason? Both EMC and its buyer, Skyview Capital, said it would fare better if it was owned by a company that could focus it time, attention and investment on it. A divested Syncplicity now seems to be winning clients and business partners at an unprecedented rate.
Sold to the right party, Documentum might share the same fate.
Evaluating the Odds
What are the chances of Dell wanting to hold on to Documentum?
We’ve reached out to both Dell and EMC’s Enterprise Content Division for comment but haven’t received any responses thus far.
In the meantime, we’ve queried a number of analysts to ask if they saw a fit for Documentum and ECD at Dell. Though some of them aren’t willing to speculate on the record, we haven’t found a single one who thinks that Documentum’s a keeper.
Pelz-Sharpe who has watched the information/content management sector for as long as we can remember said, “Just as much of the Autonomy/Interwoven software assets turned up in the HP Inc printer business recently, Documentum too would have to find a home in another major hardware business."
In other words, there isn’t a fit.
He added that “the future for both these groups may well lie elsewhere via spin off’s or sales, in Documentum’s case Dell has already laid the groundwork stating it plans to sell of $10 billion of non-core software and service assets.”
Laurence Hart, Lead Analyst at Word of Pie, told CMSWire, “If the EMC/Dell deal closes, ECD will likely be sold. Content Management doesn't fit into the story that has been painted and Dell is taking on a lot of debt that will need servicing. Until ECD is sold, significant investments into the Documentum product line are likely to be minimal.”
It’s doubtful that Ghai would share his sentiment. A source within EMC ECD has told CMSWire that EMC is continuing to build out its Documentum based industry solutions portfolio and that work on Project Horizon is continuing at a “furious pace.” The new content product is still likely to be unveiled at EMC World in May.
Hypothetically speaking, if ECD was put up for sale, it would reel in a higher price with new and refreshed product portfolio anyways, added the source.
Who would buy EMC ECD?
“There are two types of potential buyers for ECD,” said Hart. “The first is an existing vendor that would want access to the maintenance stream and client list. Open Text and HP are two that jump to mind as most likely. There is a chance a private equity buyer could emerge. Unlike a few years ago when EMC was rumored to be seeking a buyer, Dell will not be seeking to recoup an investment; they'll be looking to divest an unnecessary asset. This could allow ECD to be purchased at a lower price point, opening ECD up to be acquired by investors seeking to invigorate the Documentum product."
The chances of HP wanting Documentum may not be great, given that they just divested themselves of iManage. It’s worth noting too that HP’s investments in growing that document management business were also minimal.
Hart’s other ideas are much more plausible. A spinoff would almost demand reinvigoration and investment.
While the prospect of a buyer who would acquire EMC ECD is plausible, somewhere out there, there could be a buyer who would actually give ECD the resources, innovation and the sunlight it needs to realize its full capabilities and potential.
One can only hope.