March 3, 2006
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HP has announced its first combined offering of OpenView and Peregrine technology. This offering combines HP OpenView Service Desk and Peregrine’s AssetCenter and targets customers who are seeking to improve IT service management efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance service levels. With the AssetCenter integration, customers will now be able to identify, track, and optimize all IT assets such as software, PCs, mainframes, and most anything in between with the goal of improved service desk productivity and enhanced service levels through immediate access to asset information. This latest offering forms the foundation of the HP Active Configuration Management Database (CMDB) strategy, which was announced at the HP Software Forum Asia Pacific. HP’s Active CMDB strategy is a standards-based SOA that automatically synchronizes management data, allowing customers to combine information sources for a comprehensive view of IT. The company indicated that it already has 3,000+ customers with a CMDB that holds all relevant information about the system components in an IT service as well as the relationships among those components. This includes all incidents, problems, known errors, changes, and releases, as well as corporate data about employees, suppliers, locations, and business units. HP’s Active CMDB strategy is to allow HP and other vendors to populate and consume data consistently within the database with a goal of unifying disparate data sources. To achieve this, HP will use an open and extensible SOA that enables the translation of data between different sources to provide a unified view of IT.
Well, time certainly flies when you are having fun. It was just about three months ago that the Peregrine acquisition was final, and now we are already seeing integration of some of the code bases. Given the predilection towards extreme engineering that at times has fixated HP on getting things “right” at the expense of expediency, this change took place in record time. To us, this is a good thing: good for HP, good for its customers, and potentially good for users and the marketplace overall. The Active CMDB strategy of offering a multivendor-populated data store that is accessible through straightforward Web services should be, in our view, well received by IT professionals charged with the daunting task of managing the plethora of IT assets in any organization. While there have been excellent management tools, such as OpenView, for quite some time, they have too often lived in a siloed universe, with a limited view of the totality of the IT infrastructure. This was rather silly in the 20th century and simply not an acceptable solution for the 21st.
So is this a case of HP simply making the world a better place for all, or is there some sustainable strategy beneath all of this? The answer, at least to us, is a strategy for the long haul with respect to OpenView. The last few years have demonstrated that the value propositions for many different products have continue to evolve in light of commercial competition, or open source for that matter. What was once value-add is nowadays clearly the ante just be considered a player in the game. Collecting a subset, even a substantial one, of the IT assets on the network and in the datacenter and managing them in a database does not a 21st-century management solution make. The value we see in management is its ability to manage the totality of IT, not just sections of it. Ultimately, one universal driver’s seat by which to manage and operate the datacenter and out through its network tentacles will simply be the requirement, nothing less. We see HP’s Active CMBD strategy aligned with this eventuality and we are quite pleased to note the holistic approach that it offers. Nevertheless, for any organization, achieving this holistic Holy Grail will not happen overnight, but HP’s position in the management marketplace is substantial and the company is in a good position to help drive the overall market behavior and expectations. Overall, we are impressed by HP’s speed in integrating the first pieces of its Peregrine technology, but perhaps more so, we are impressed by the company’s strategic direction that is implicit in this latest technological coupling.
IBM has announced new versions of its Tivoli products aimed to small and mid-sized companies under the banner of Tivoli Express. The products are designed to help companies automate infrastructure management, including PCs, servers, storage, and security. The products are based on the same Tivoli technology targeted at large enterprises but in a more affordable offering and redesigned for easier deployment and use. The new products have been designed to accommodate how SMBs actually deal with administrative tasks such as managing server workloads, application monitoring, data protection, and password verification. IBM worked with over forty business partners in redesigning the products for SMBs, focusing on partners who were expert in management and security to make sure that IBM’s development efforts were truly targeted to the right audience. According to IBM, it hasn’t simply changed feature sets. Instead it has added new installations and changed graphical user interfaces where necessary. The four products include Tivoli Identity Manager Express, to block insider attacks and help bring new users on board more quickly; Tivoli Storage Manager Express, which provides inexpensive automated backup and recovery; Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express which provides inventory management and software distribution to collect, store, and maintain hardware, software, and asset information; and Tivoli Monitoring Express, which brings IBM’s autonomic capabilities such as self-healing and self-correcting across servers, operating systems, and databases.
This announcement from IBM is an interesting dovetailing of two of the hottest races in computing right now: the race for the management market, and the race for the SMBs. IBM’s Tivoli products have not traditionally been considered as easy to use or well integrated, and so have suffered in both markets despite having some excellent points. IBM’s recent overhaul of the Tivoli product line and its re-architecting of some parts for improved use in mid-markets can only improve Tivoli’s chances of gaining market share for both enterprise and mid-market customers. IBM seems to have learned the important lesson that SMB products should not developed by taking enterprise versions and chopping off bits to fit them into an SMB container. SMB products need to be built for the SMB markets from the ground up, even if they have 95% or more DNA-sharing with their enterprise siblings. By creating an umbrella for Tivoli Express and providing multiple components under that umbrella, IBM has given partners and customers an easy way to sort out which versions are for them and which products best match capabilities to customer needs. By engaging the partners early in the development process, IBM has also helped to ensure that the all-important channel also believes in the credibility of SMB versions of Tivoli.
Well, despite the coolness factor of appliance-like management for the mid-market, it cannot be said often enough that simply putting an appliance for something like security or backup is not a replacement for good business practice and proper IT processes. These devices are designed to aid and abet security and management; to enable overworked and underpaid IT managers to do more and to do it more efficiently, automated management usually implying less chance for human error, particularly if multiple systems or applications are involved. This means that business partners should still have some opportunity to help customers adopt best practices or evolve processes to the next level. IBM has positioned this product in particular for health care and hospitals, a sector undergoing lots of process change and relying ever more on technology to enable better management of information. Tivoli Express products can fill a necessary part of the equation, but it is incumbent on IBM and the business partners to help these companies use them to their maximum capability.
EMC recently announced its newest product for the capture and retrieval of enterprise information, eDiscovery Solution. Building on the EMC Centera platform, these newest applications are aimed at automatic retrieval and archiving of email, messaging, and electronic documents by sitting between the user and the application. EmailXtender, an application in the eDiscovery suite, archives email messages to Centera using EMC DiskXtender, another application in the suite. When a search is needed, the ECI Adapter extracts the results of the search and saves the individual message files into the content server and categorizes them according to the matter being searched. The information is then saved until it can be edited, reviewed, and/or inspected. After the matter that started the search is finished, the retrieved and saved data is then sent back into the archive from which it came.
Since the majority of enterprise records and information are in electronic form, it makes sense to employ a technological method for quick and accurate retrieval and sorting of that information. To this end, EMC seems to be placing itself into direct competition with Enterprise Vault, Symantec’s answer to the electronic discovery question, thus highlighting the fact that customers may be becoming more aware of their own vulnerabilities concerning potential legal action and so are perhaps in search of more than one answer. The burgeoning area of electronic discovery seems to be showing rapid signs of expansion, the boundaries of which look to be constantly changing.
The rules concerning any Request for Production are currently being revised; a situation that may be of interest for any enterprise that thinks it might at some time be involved in litigation. Legal documents are covered under client-attorney privilege and so are exempt from the discovery process. Trade secrets are also exempt. Therefore, everything that is retrieved electronically in a Request for Production will most likely need to be reviewed by the enterprise’s lawyers, whether those are inhouse or outsourced. Thus an unholy alliance between a legal team and an IT department may form, the consequences of which will in all probability rip a hole in the fabric of the space-time continuum and create a direct link to the underworld. Or perhaps the consequences won’t be so dire; merely a small black hole the size of a cubicle will form. A quick check in Babelfish.com reveals that there is no option for “Geekspeak to Legalese,” so communication between the two departments is probably going to be an issue, and only the first of many. The two departments don’t usually deal with each other on a daily operational basis, but with the growing need for electronic discovery, the mutual avoidance policy will most likely change. Organizations may respond in various ways to the frictions that may be generated between the two camps, perhaps by ensuring the heads of the departments enforce “play nice” policies, not allowing any interdepartmental rivalries, or maybe issuing little mini-dictionaries. In any case, both lawyers and IT people will most likely need assistance in wading through the ocean of electronic documents, messaging, and email that any enterprise creates. EMC seems to be positioning itself to provide that assistance; perhaps they could assist departments within companies to work as seamlessly as their applications.
Whetting our appetites further for the next version of Windows, Microsoft this week announced the forthcoming versions of Vista and its market segmentations. In sync with Windows XP, Microsoft will offer six versions of Windows Vista to business and consumer customers. There, however, the similarity ends as Microsoft is taking a different approach with Vista in response to numerous requests from a demanding customer base. Whereas XP versions were technology-oriented, with versions for Media Center, Tablet PC, and 64-bit computing, Vista will be based on scenarios. XP was not oriented to particular customer segments, and as a result users were forced to make tradeoffs if, for example, they wanted to use XP Pro on a tablet computer. The new versions of Vista will have three for consumers and three for businesses. For consumers, Microsoft will have Home Basic, its entry level product; and Home Premium, which will be a replacement for both Media Center and Tablet PC editions of XP. For businesses, Microsoft will offer Vista Business, which will be an upgrade for Tablet PC; Professional x64, and XP Pro. Windows Vista Enterprise is a new product, which is designed for large organizations with complex requirements for their users and data. Microsoft will also offer Vista Ultimate, which will have all of the features of Vista Home Premium and Vista Enterprise for users who want both home and work capabilities in one computer. Finally, for selected emerging markets, Microsoft will offer Windows Vista Starter as the replacement for Windows XP Starter Edition. The Home Basic and Premium editions, as well as Vista Business and Vista Ultimate, will be available through retail channels and on OEM PCs with pre-installed OS.
Vista is giving us a view of the new Microsoft, finally moving away from the notion of one OS fits all or that an end-user OS should be platform-oriented rather than user-oriented. We might even dare say that Microsoft understands there are not only business customers and consumer customers, but also those of us road warriors who take our systems with us everywhere, as entertainment centers for lonely nights on the road and seemingly endless airplane trips as well as our portable office and the center of our work universe. Of course sorting out this positioning for those who sell—and more importantly for those who buy—will take some time and positioning. Not only does Microsoft have to get users excited about the somewhat frightening notion of upgrading an operating system (or thousands of them)—some out there are still hiding from XP SP2—but they are also going to have to help users understand where they need to go next based on what they currently have and how well it’s meeting their needs. The go-to-market will need to be clear and focused to get maximum upgrades. Large organizations in particular are going to be worried about change management issues.
At this point, it all looks like a good idea on PowerPoint, although exactly what features are being added will require a bit of time to sort out. One of the problems with Microsoft’s products is that there are more features in any given product than most of us have the time and bandwidth to explore fully. In addition to helping customers understand which product and when, Microsoft also needs to help pick key features and highlight them so that customers don’t just upgrade the product and continue to use it as they have more or less for the last ten years. Helping users understand the key differences and new benefits will greatly increase the likelihood of early adoption across all scenarios and versions. It’s not just more stable and more secure, if it genuinely enhances the everyday user experience, that’s something worth having.