Moving up the IT stack

IBM's purchase of asset and service management powerhouse MRO Software - hot on the heels of HP's Mercury acquisition - could signal a new chapter in the IT industry. After years of helping IT support a Rube Goldberg style infrastructure, the major vendors are hoping to give both IT and business honchos a broader view.

It's all about moving up the IT stack. That means the big boys want to sell products and services for soup-to-nuts IT management, capable of tying IT assets and projects to business goals. To accomplish that, both HP and IBM are turning to project and portfolio management, offering a 20,000-foot view that promises to couple business initiatives with IT governance.

For IBM, MRO fills out the Tivoli suite by adding the capability to monitor and provision physical assets. Meanwhile HP will lean on Mercury for portfolio management, which can facilitate business process re-engineering - and maybe jump-start HP's high-level consulting business to boot. These top-down approaches can provide companies with a greater measure of control over the whole shebang.

Surprisingly, vendors and their customers may even be in synch this time. "Run IT as a business" has emerged as a corporate mantra. And C-level management is pushing for greater control over, and visibility into, IT operations as a way to leapfrog the competition.

As HP senior VP Thomas Hogan said: "The CEO doesn't give you points for keeping servers up. That's dial tone. Your mission is to bring new applications and information and value-add to the lines of business to create competitive advantage."

Needless to say, HP and IBM will be only too happy to help.

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