Over the past two years, many carriers, either to their dismay or bewilderment, saw key software vendors fall under new ownership. And it hasn't been simply a case of small fish being eaten by larger fish. Some of the largest names in the software business have been caught in the net. PeopleSoft and Siebel Systems, giants in their markets, for instance, were scooped up in acquisitions.Mergers and acquisitions are always sprung on the market by surprise, and it's difficult to predict or sense when a change in ownership may be pending. What's certain is that such market moves can disrupt even the most meticulously laid plans of IT executives.

The recent rash of acquisitions and mergers reads like a Who's Who of the software industry. Oracle Corp. has been grabbing the most headlines lately, scooping up Siebel Systems to build its customer relationship management (CRM) portfolio. Prior to that, PeopleSoft, an enterprise software vendor, which had bought out JD Edwards, was also acquired by Oracle.

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