Editor’s note: Allan Krans is a senior analyst within TBR’s Software Practice, with focuses on cloud services, enterprise security, storage and software markets.

HAMPTON, N.H. — DemandTec is the latest example of IBM marrying its own initial development on platform solutions with acquisitions targeted at industry-specific vertical functionality.

After significantly enhancing its cloud computing offerings, largely through internal development, and simultaneously building its commerce offerings through acquisition, IBM’s purchase of DemandTec ties the two initiatives together. It unites Smarter Commerce and Cloud Computing. After investing to advance the two initiatives separately, the acquisition quickly merges the two, delivering all the value of Smarter Commerce in addition to the ease of use and cost advantages of cloud delivery.

The purchase is also a continuation of two acquisition trends – the industry-wide run on cloud companies and IBM’s focus on commerce for acquisition investments.

From an industry perspective, the cloud computing market remains very fragmented, but appears increasingly ripe for consolidation by leaders in the traditional software space. Oracle’s purchase of SaaS firm RightNow and SAP’s recent acquisition of SuccessFactors, combined with IBM’s DemandTec purchase, point to a shift in the cloud market landscape. Leading vendors will become acquisition targets, and smaller players will experience increased competitive pressure.

For IBM, the Smarter Commerce initiative is an example of using financial strength to build a portfolio and gain market permission to enter new markets. The acquisitions of Web commerce company Sterling Commerce, marketing analytics firm Unica and marketing optimization firm Coremetrics – collectively representing an investment of over $2 billion – formed the baseline of functionality for the Smarter Commerce initiative.

Any perplexity around why IBM would purchase marketing companies over the past two years is now likely comprehensible, as the portfolio and strategy come together under the Smarter Commerce umbrella. The purchase of DemandTec expands this strategy, adding cloud delivery on top of the baseline functionality of the Smarter Commerce portfolio.

The advent of Smarter Commerce represents not only a new industry-focused solution set for IBM – of which it has many – but a distinctly different value proposition and target customer compared with IBM’s existing solutions. Traditionally, IBM sold to the CIO and IT departments, providing the IT solutions to enable the business functions that drive value for their respective organizations.

Now, Smarter Commerce is injecting IBM solutions into the centers of business value within the sales and marketing organizations. Though not directly targeting sales with a CRM-like business application, IBM is edging closer to the applications space, providing the CMO with tools to improve marketing effectiveness and revenue generation.

Bringing together a new portfolio and targeting new customers is no easy task for any company. In this case, however, IBM has scoped out an approach that is both focused in its intent and holistic enough to provide a compelling value. The approach also draws on existing changes in the customer marketplace, putting business value as the ultimate benchmark for any investment, IT included.

The Smarter Commerce approach allows IBM to target business decision makers who have a growing influence on IT purchases without competing directly with Oracle and SAP in pure sales, CRM and business applications.