IBM has announced an acquisition to deepen the auditing and compliance functionality of IBM's Tivoli systems management software.

IBM plans to buy privately held US technology firm, Consul Risk Management to enhance the compliance and security auditing capabilities of its Tivoli systems management software family.

The IT giant said yesterday it expects to close the purchase in the first quarter of 2007 and absorb Consul into its Tivoli Software business unit but declined to disclose financial details on the proposed transaction.

Consul's software lets customers track, report and investigate unauthorised access of corporate information by their employees. The company has two main software suites – nSight, which focuses on the needs of enterprise users and zSecure, which targets mainframe users.

Some of IBM's customers are particularly keen to use their mainframes as security hubs so the addition of Consul's zSecure will likely prove appealing to them, according to Joe Anthony, the company's program director for Tivoli Integrated Identity Management. Aside from Consul's support of IBM's System z mainframes, the companies previously had no formal relationship.

IBM plans to provide details on a roadmap for Consul's software after closing the deal next year. The vendor hopes to quickly integrate the technologies with Tivoli. "They should dovetail nicely together," Anthony said.

Consul will help Tivoli define and flag what customers determine to be "acceptable use" of their data by those permitted to view that information, Anthony said. "We were definitely not as deep in that area," he added. "Consul is much more thorough."

For instance, a bank may allow tellers to access customer information, Anthony said. Using the Consul software, the financial institution can track user behaviour in accessing that data so it could be alerted that an individual teller was viewing 800 customer records per day when his or her peers were only examining 200 records.

Although some industry analysts have put Tivoli Security Operations Manager, which debuted in July, and Consul's InSight in the same security information management category, Anthony doesn't see them as competing products. "Once you drill down, in terms of what they have, there's very minor overlap with Tivoli," he said.

IBM's plans to retain Consul's 89 worldwide staff and to keep both of the company's laboratories operational.

Acquiring Consul will also complement the security management functionality IBM has within Tivoli software and the technology it gained from its US$1.3 billion acquisition of Internet Security Systems Inc., which closed in October, he added.

Consul celebrated its 20th anniversary in September and has about 350 customers, including Hanes, Fidelity Bank, Ford, Kroger and Office Depot, many of whom are also Tivoli customers.