Middleware vendor Tibco is stepping toward the world of business applications, announcing Wednesday it has acquired CRM (customer relationship management) provider Loyalty Lab for US$23 million.

The San Francisco company is known for its "loyalty management" software, which is used to create and manage efforts like frequent-flyer mileage programs.

Tibco is interested in delivering a customer-relations package that "supports not only customer transactions but also real-time customer interactions or events, and a platform that scales to billions of such events across an increasingly social and mobile marketplace," said Ram Menon, executive vice president of worldwide marketing, in a statement.

It seems clear that Tibco intends to marry Loyalty Labs' software to its own technology, particularly for CEP (complex event processing), said Ray Wang, CEO and principal analyst of Constellation Research.

CEP software is used to monitor large volumes of transactional data in real time, searching for patterns or correlations and setting off alerts and other actions as needed. It's known especially for its use among financial institutions for conducting rapid-fire stock trades or spotting fraud.

While the market for CEP remains fairly small, a run of consolidation in recent years has helped place the technology in the hands of large platform vendors like IBM and SAP.

Red Hat is getting into the game as well, announcing this week that it has a CEP platform in development.