A look at the big four, Part 1

* A look at the big four management vendors: BMC, CA, HP and IBM

It is simply not possible to discuss the network and systems management market without mentioning four well-known acronyms: BMC, CA, HP and IBM.

The big four management vendors, while often criticized by industry watchers and customers for continuing to develop expensive, complicated products, remain ahead of the pack in terms of market share, stability and integrated product suites addressing multiple management needs. And even when innovative start-ups challenge the incumbents, industry watchers must admit BMC, CA, HP and IBM -- while not always first to market with the latest technology -- have installed customer bases and experience on their side as well.

Recently Forrester Research released separate reports analyzing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) facing the management veterans that have been leading the market for many years now.

"And that's not going to change," said Tom Bishop, BMC CTO in a recent interview when asked about the longevity and stability of "big four." Industry watchers agree BMC over the past few years has made its business service management (BSM) strategy a significant IT priority for many customers.

"BMC has developed BSM into a locomotive that is now in a position to pull the whole IT management software train of associated monitoring and IT management technologies," Forrester's "SWOT Analysis: BMC Software, Q2 2007" reads. "But success has its price: As BSM is not the norm, BMC must continue to innovate in order to consolidate its position as a strategic partner in the enterprise."

And according to Forrester, BMC's BSM strategy tops the vendor's strengths, but a lack of focus on network management represents a major weakness. Yet the vendor recently introduced products designed to bring BSM to IT operations staff and announced last week it plans to acquire management software maker ProactiveNet for its event correlation and predictive analysis capabilities.

As for close competitor CA -- which survived accounting scandals and management overhauls -- BSM is exactly what it needs to focus on, Forrester says. When President and CEO John Swainson joined CA, the company was suffering from the scandals and lacked clear direction for its many products. That changed when CA introduced its Enterprise IT Management strategy to customers and started down the path toward a clear value proposition to customers.

In fact, Forrester reports CA's Unicenter management software portfolio "continues to be the largest in the industry, covering the management of mainframes, distributed systems, desktops and new service-oriented architectures." The research firm says while CA focuses on rebranding and rebuilding the company post-scandal, it should also focus its technology development on bringing business services into the mix.

"CA has presented its vision of EITM to customers, and this has helped unify CA's product offering," the Forrester report on CA reads. "Market needs now require CA to extend this vision to cover a business services orientation; its customers are facing BSM challenges more than IT service management ones."

Next up: Rivals at more than management software HP and IBM.

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