Infra buy gets EMC into ITSM

Why Infra and why ITSM? EMC will use Infra technology to further solidify its 'Closed Loop Service Orchestration' strategy. This strategy takes the foundational components and insight into IT infrastructure, builds upon that with the auto-discovery capabilities, and will now add the top-line service management capabilities available in the Infra product suite.

Last month, EMC acquired Infra, an Australian provider of IT service management software. Infra is not a newcomer to ITSM. The company was established in 1991 and offers a Web-based software suite encompassing problem and incident management; request, change, and release management; and capacity, service continuity, and knowledge management built around its own configuration management database, or CMDB.

Infra represents the fourth in a series of acquisitions that build upon EMC’s core architectural capabilities foundational to service management. The series began with the acquisition of SMARTS for network discovery, advanced analytics and network management in 2005, followed by nLayers for application dependency mapping in 2006, Voyence for network change and configuration management last year, and now Infra. EMC is clearly taking a building-block approach to rounding out its infrastructure management technologies.

Why Infra and why ITSM? EMC will use Infra technology to further solidify EMC’s “Closed Loop Service Orchestration” strategy. This strategy takes the foundational components and insight into IT infrastructure, builds upon that with the auto-discovery capabilities, and will now add the top-line service management capabilities available in the Infra product suite.

EMC has leadership in many areas, yet the company has not played a significant role in the ITSM market. Infra takes EMC to the “front office,” so to speak, of the ITSM landscape. Prior investments made by EMC involved infrastructure including service models, configuration and change management, and even application discovery and modeling with its nLayers acquisition with a heavy infrastructure focus. All of these investments set the stage for EMC to begin to play in the service management market. Infra is EMC’s first step into the customer-facing, service delivery limelight.

At the time of EMC’s nLayers acquisition, Enterprise Management Associates stated that the key ramification of the nLayers acquisition was “to enable cross-domain service assurance with a holistic view of the application ecosystem.” In addition, nLayers could provide “flow” based information that complements SNMP statistics and polling, and the ability to add application-aware chargebacks - and it gave EMC a seat at the CMDB table.

Infra will provide a strong process-centric component focused on managing change from a desired state perspective to complement nLayers and SMARTS capabilities for dynamic discovered state information across networked topologies and application dependencies. This in turn should support a reflexive system capable of contrasting discovered state with desired state -- both to help troubleshoot problems in service performance and to validate the impact of changes made to the infrastructure and its applications.The acquisition of Infra is an interesting and surprising step for EMC. The ITSM market is made up of companies that have been offering ITSM for many years. EMC has not been a member of that group. Instead, the company has been building from the bottom up to create a foundation that will support service management for its customers. EMC’s acquisitions have all been companies with strong capabilities and standing in their respective market segments.

Infra continues this tradition, though there were a number of companies that might have fit the bill. Having gained respect in the market, Infra has done a better job than most European or Asia-Pacific companies in achieving recognition in the North American market. It has a strong mix of product capabilities, with the only obvious omission being asset management. The biggest question is whether EMC can take on the challenge of pulling people, process, and technology together. While EMC does have a group in place for this purpose, it appears that this group needs to be much more business-focused, less technology-focused, to deal with the often political issues that arise.

Even so, EMC has an opportunity to give the “Big 4” a run for their money. We like the fact that EMC has been proactive, even if rather quiet about it, in adopting a true companywide architecture.

EMC has done a good job of deconstructing capabilities such as analytics and discovery from acquisitions and applying them effectively across domains – for example, in applying SMARTS technology to storage as well as network infrastructure. This suggests that EMC understands the Lego-like nature of next-generation architectures, which should give it some real advantages over its competition.

EMC will need to continue to acquire and/or build technology to fill in the service management pieces such as broad-based SLM and BSM. And then EMC will need to clarify a unique position and overcome its hardware background as it builds services to support its new position in the market.

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