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HP takes a structural approach to adaptive management

Mar 22, 20045 mins
Data Center

* Excitement surrounds HP's management strategy

There was much excitement, commitment and focus earlier this month at HP’s first analyst event dedicated to its management directions. Management was singled out as one of the company’s four key growth areas, along with mobility, rich digital media and security. And as someone all too familiar with the frustrations of being a management software champion inside an otherwise hardware-driven company, I could personally relate to the cautious optimism that at times percolated into overt joy.

HP clearly had a lot to share, and in some marathon sessions made the mistake of trying to share too much at once.  Nevertheless, the value of the content was in most cases well worth the struggle.

One of the most telling presentations came from Russ Daniels, vice president and CTO of management software for the Global Business Unit. Daniels laid out a high-level, schematic of core architectural directions and dimensions to support the adaptive vision in which IT is “modeled as a service delivery business.”   Its significance is that the adaptive enterprise, along with on-demand computing and other broad approaches to business alignment and automation, can’t come about without a well-defined structural foundation.  The days of kluging together management solutions based on market penetration with no regard to technical integration and functional synergies are long gone.  To be honest they never deserved to exist in the first place, and led to an inflated sense of skepticism about partnerships and mergers within the industry.  

Given HP’s fairly aggressive acquisition trail in management software, a clear architectural foundation is fundamental. With the announcement this month of the TruLogica buy for user-provisioning software, the string of HP’s management software tallies at least an additional five. These include Novadigm for software distribution and change management; Consera for model-based server provisioning automation and workflow; Persist Technologies for information lifecycle management; Talking Blocks for Web services management; and Select Access for identity management.  There’s also an OEM relationship with Packet Design for route analytics, which will be deeply integrated into Network Node Manager’s Event Correlation System.

Some of the highlights of Daniels’ architectural directions are:

* A clear architectural direction stressing: simplification from a development and deployment perspective; standardization, modularity and integration. This emphasis on modularity and integration reinforces OpenView’s core design as a center for multi-brand selection and choice. 

* Prioritization of model-based automation over list- and script-driven automation. 

* Defined areas for delivering critical management functionality in terms of functional components – under what HP calls Service Delivery Controllers. These are abstractly made up of Task Automation, Resource Monitoring and Analysis, Event-Response Policy, Entitlement and Allocation, and centrally – Model-based Automation.   For instance, while Novadigm can automate software and change management tasks, Consera can provide the modeling to enable server provisioning workflow in support of business and company priorities.   Ultimately, this type of design can facilitate a more enlightened approach to integrating partner products.  In other words, it becomes a kind of blueprint for partner planning, systems integration, and ultimately even sophisticated IT purchasing.  It is in some respects related to EMA’s “semantic” for assessing management investments and functional capabilities – e.g. data gathering, data store, topology and configuration, analytics, visualization, data transport and automated actions.

Another important point is that HP’s strategy is solutions-oriented vs. piecemeal.  David Gee, vice president of marketing for management software, outlined solution sets for the management of networked services, change and configuration, application services, IT services and business services, the latter of which is a new focus for HP. Telco management – where HP is a leader compared to other enterprise providers – was presented as leading vertical solution.

It should be noted that there is a direct relationship between Daniels’ ability to layout what could become a compelling architecture, and Gee’s confidence that solutions vs. isolated products will define HP’s future management portfolio.   Solutions can’t be effectively built on piece parts with their own, questionably integrated designs, fragmented brands, inconsistencies and overlaps. A structural approach to infrastructure management may not sound glamorous – but it’s probably the single, key pointer on the road to victory and away from confusion for any major management provider, as well as for anyone seeking cohesive deployment.

A last note.  In the interest of fairness and balance, HP’s direction is still a work in progress and there were quite a few clearly visible rough edges.   For example, HP’s focus on smaller businesses, although promising, will need to evolve to the same level of architectural/structural clarity exhibited within its broader enterprise portfolio.  This will be all the more important, as future market innovation won’t just flow downward, but upward – as enhanced demands for ease of use, deployment and administration in smaller businesses percolate back into the enterprise.  Nevertheless, in spite of some predictable shortcomings, HP’s ambitious, well-thought-out and structurally well-anchored management initiatives are something to be welcomed and watched.