HP guns for Web services management prize

Large systems management vendors are shedding their domain and element-focused network management roots to aggressively pursue integrated products that manage workflow processes and end-user performance within distributed IT networks and Web services environments.

Before its customers at the HP Software Forum in Seattle this week, Hewlett-Packard Co. executives expressed HP's commitment toward reinvigorating its HP OpenView portfolio toward a services-oriented infrastructure software management model. This will allow customers to scale IT operations from an infrastructure provider to a service provider paradigm -- managing processes, software, and hardware based upon service-level objectives and business needs rather than events, according to Patty Azarello, vice president and general manager of Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP's Software Global Business Unit.

Azarello admitted that HP OpenView absorbed its share of lumps a few years ago when network management needs centered upon mainframe demands and system management competitors scooped up a "ton of revenue" by hawking monolithic frameworks. But she believes that circumstance ultimately forced HP to concentrate its modular-by-design Network Node Manager product toward distributed environments much earlier in the game.

"Managing Web services is about managing and understanding all of the [application and infrastructure] things that impact that Web service," said Azarello. "Tivoli and CA [Computer Associates International Inc.] are talking, but a framework concept does not work at all in a Web services environment, and we see them trying to downplay that."

HP holds a distinctive advantage over CA, IBM/Tivoli, and BMC Software Inc. through its capability to bring together IP and non-IP elements in a managed fashion that resonates with customers, such as its Internet Usage Manager and Internet Services offerings, for example, according to analyst Dennis Drogseth, vice president for Enterprise Management Associates Inc. in Portsmouth, N.H.

"HP is probably the most mature in moving down this [Web services] path. It's been re-architecting longer, and addressing service-level management in various ways longer," said Drogseth. "They probably got started off at the gates a little earlier."

Yet Drogseth did not discount the rewards individual strengths of the systems managements could bring to bolster their own fortunes in the suddenly contested Web services management race, particularly in the areas of security, storage, and wireless management.

"The [market] revitalization here is really profound. It's not adding a few checkmarks to bells and whistles, it's a shift in how management products will be built and how IT organizations approach [management] software that's more intelligence and dynamically adaptive to change and synthetic in how decisions are made," he added.

According to a new report introduced this week by research firm IDC, IBM may have the inside track to produce that new breed of service management solutions. The report pegs IBM, backed by its Austin, Texas-based Tivoli software division, as the leader in the systems operations software industry based upon worldwide revenue market share.

The IDC report tabulated market share for 2001 in three areas: job scheduling, output management, and change and configuration management. Also, growth forecasts offered through 2006 are included for Mainframe, Linux, and Windows operating environments and four global geographical environments. IBM representatives touted Big Blue's tight Web services development and WebSphere ties -- as well as considerable financial resources -- upon Tivoli products at its Planet Tivoli end-user conference earlier this month.

Calling HP OpenView a "hidden jewel" within HP, Gartner Inc. research director Debra Curtis said HP is using its management portfolio to heed customers' desire for better communications between IT managers and business managers through its ServiceDesk integration. This practice will prove paramount for complex distributed enterprise problem prioritization and resolution, she said.

"We need to get IT managers up out of their 'stovepipes' -- instead of managing a particular technology, rather how the entire end-to-end process or user performance is working," said Curtis of Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner. "You need to really be taking that top-down perspective and have your priorities set. I think in a lot of those places a software product can be a catalyst to break down those walls."

The influx of hardware and the large customer base it gained through its Compaq merger and dubious fate of its middleware product line will have a distinct impact on HP's Web services play, analysts said.

At the HP conference, Azarello said that HP will be heavily focusing efforts toward Microsoft Corp.'s Windows platform management to satisfy incoming Compaq customers. She denied that the new install base would have any type of bearing upon its Web services management development play, currently situated squarely between Microsoft .Net and J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) audiences.

Despite HP's partnership announcement with BEA Systems Inc. this week and Larry Ellison's disclosure of Oracle Corp.'s interest to buy HP's beleaguered application server and middleware product line, Azarello gave no hint of an impending sale. "No decisions have been made," she remarked.

However, sources said a move could be made in the next few weeks.

Azarello assured conference attendees that Compaq's hardware presence would not deter HP OpenView from its software focus. In fact, she said the acquisition would elevate HP OpenView service management to greater heights by incorporating voice and data management to its arsenal through TMIP.

Some HP customers, such as Joseph Maloney, assistant vice president of network operations for Germantown, Md.-based Hughes Network Systems Inc., found some parts of the billion-dollar merger less than desirable for his business. Maloney said his organization's deep investment in HP's NetServer product line, slated to be phased out due to the Compaq merger, bodes ill for his 1,500 server data center infrastructure.

"HP's decision after the fact to eliminate the NetServer line is a concern for us because that's what we buy," said Maloney of Hughes, a satellite signal service provider. "Now we'll have to evaluate Proliant [servers] and that implies we will have to look at competitors' [products]."

Still, Maloney felt HP was heading in the right direction with HP OpenView, as are other systems management vendors behind their respective software, to solve the emerging Web services management puzzle.

"Our customers don't care if one of our servers is down. They care about how it affects them. You have to make decisions based on priority and that's where service management comes in," he said.

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