After IBM-Red Hat, cloud companies such as Workday, Okta, MongoDB could be next, analysts say

Key Points
  • One group of analysts thought Workday could fit in well at Microsoft.
  • This year has seen more software deal volume than in 2016 and 2017 combined.
Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Analysts are looking at other midsize infrastructure technology companies as possible acquisition targets after IBM's $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat was announced Sunday.

IBM's move is the biggest software deal ever, going beyond what Microsoft paid for LinkedIn and what Facebook paid for WhatsApp. Companies competing with IBM — and Red Hat — could well be getting ready to respond with deals of their own.

IBM couched the deal as being about cloud. Dozens of cloud companies trade on public markets, and following the announcement of the Red Hat deal some of them are getting more attention than usual.

Raymond James analysts said category-leading software companies such as ServiceNow, Splunk, Tableau and Workday, along with converged infrastructure company Nutanix, could wind up getting taken. During Monday's trading Splunk and Workday were up 4 percent, while Nutanix was up 3 percent, and Tableau was up 1 percent.

"We believe Workday remains an obvious complement to Microsoft's enterprise portfolio where Dynamics is the company's only offering in back office enterprise application software," the analysts wrote.

Wedbush analysts Daniel Ives and Strecker Backe said in a Monday note that after the Red Hat buy they expect "a surge of cloud M&A set to take hold as both strategic and financial acquirers go after cloud deals in 2019."

The companies they cited were Pivotal, Qualys and Zscaler. Pivotal was up 5 percent during Monday trading, while Zscaler was up 2 percent.

J.P. Morgan analysts led by Sterling Auty wrote that the volume of technology mergers and acquisitions seems to be going up, with more than 70 so far in 2018. They identified 16 companies that could get bought. The biggest gainers among them on Monday were Okta, which was up almost 4 percent, and Ellie Mae, which was up 3 percent.

Rishi Jaluria of D.A. Davidson flagged eight companies that could get bought amid continuing technology mergers-and-acquisitions fever. Of those, MongoDB was up 4 percent, and Twilio was up 3.5 percent. Jaluria also said that Cloudera could be picked up amid what will be a "continued appetite for open-source software companies at scale" in the wake of IBM-Red Hat. Cloudera merged with Hortonworks earlier this month in a $5.2 billion deal.

The amount of money spent on software deals in 2018 is larger than in 2016 and 2017 combined, Jaluria said.

"One concern we do have around the massive volume of software M&A this year is that we're approaching peak M&A in software," Jaluria said.

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Red Hat CEO is a 'critical component' in IBM deal: Analyst
Red Hat CEO is a 'critical component' in IBM deal: Analyst