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Q&A: David Gee, VP of Adaptive Management, HP

HP has been filling gaps in its OpenView management software platform through acquisitions. Just last week, the company moved to buy identity management software maker TruLogica.

But it's been shopping for months, striking five other deals deals since July: the SelectAccess security assets from Baltimore Technologies; Talking Blocks for Web services management; Persist Technologies for information lifecycle management; and Novadigm and Consera for IT automation.

OpenView is a key component of the Palo Alto, Calif., system vendor's "Adaptive Enterprise," computing model to provide automation, management, security and several other characteristics to produce a network that practically manages itself. With an on-demand system, HP said users will also be able to self-administer upgrades and pay as they go.

David Gee, vice president of Adaptive Management, recently visited internetnews.com in New York to chat about HP's latest pickups, the company's overarching strategy and its positioning versus rival IBM.

Q: HP has described its Adaptive Enterprise strategy as getting business and IT synchronized to capitalize on change. Provided your TruLogica acquisition succeeds, what gap does it fill?

Identity management is one of the key things you have to do if you want to manage your IT as a business. 'Who are you and what are you going to help me do?'

Think about it this way: I can give you a driver's license. I can say, 'You are now Jack Smith. You are 5'10", blond hair, blue eyes. This is who you are.' The next stage of that is the provisioning of resources based on who you are. Now that you have your driver's license, I can say 'Jack, you are allowed to drive red cars, because you're in England, they're going to be right-hand drive, standard.'

The good news is that, six months later, you've done such a great job, we're going to promote you. So, now we're going to give you a bigger red car, with more resources than we originally gave you. But, six months after that you're fired because we don't like you anymore. We then yank away your car and remove you from the system as if you've never even been there. TruLogica allows you to group identities and manage them based on levels of policies and the resources they have.

Q: Last month you moved to acquire Novadigm and Consera. What do these companies bring to the table?

We acquired Novadigm and Consera, which is the other piece of this for automated change and configuration. Change is miserable. Say you've got a machine that isn't working; you're going to call the help desk. Some guy is going to come down and tell you that you've caught a virus. You've had unsafe Outlook with someone. Everybody is calling the help desk for the same problem. Wouldn't it be great to be able roll out an updated patch automatically?

Novadigm and Consera allow you to model what the offending e-mail looked like, or what the supply chain management looks like, or what the SAP implementation looks like, and be sure that you can model what you want it to look like. What Novadigm does is go out and implement all of those changes into the desired state. So, if you went out and put Kazaa on this machine, Novadigm would take it off because IT administration doesn't want it there. So, I want to run IT as a business so I want to be flexible so that if I buy a company, sell a company, change the price, or whatever you have, to be able to manage all of these things. That's the mission we're on.

Q: You have a business service component to your Adaptive Enterprise strategy. How do you implement that using OpenView?

The whole strategy of our software business around management is to help the CIO run IT as a business and automate the link between these business processes and IT. So, as an example, you buy a company and all these new people show up, they're going to get desks and chairs and computers and access to the HR port and e-mail. If you don't have a dynamic link between your business processes and your technology, you're the CIO that says I can't make this stuff happen. So, we are building out the stack... You can think of OpenView now as a stack of products that deal with and allow the CIO to dynamically integrate business and automate the business processes to the infrastructure.

Historically, we were always network management, operations management. Sort of -- network up, network down, server up, server down. Then you get into things like applications management. If something isn't working, why isn't it working? Can I do transactional analysis? What is the result if something fails or my Oracle database falls over? So, at the top end, we're rolling out business service management. Say you're a mobile phone business that offers pay-as-you-go phone service. Say I'm using a cell phone from your business. You're a line of business person at the mobile phone company who can map the process from an IT standpoint and set up service levels around those things. Say, it's now taking 3 minutes to do a credit card process versus 3 seconds. You're responsible for pay-as-you-go on the phone and you realize you're losing $200 an hour, or $200 minute because the transaction process is so slow. So, you can throw more application servers at it. You can do all those kind of things with business service management. You can put IT service management around it and get the networking guys and e-mail guys and database guys out of their silos and actually look at what's going on in the business process.

Q: IBM and HP in recent months have taken potshots at each other over the notion of vertical versus horizontal approaches to serving customers, yet neither has done a particularly good job of articulating the differences. Can you clear that up?

We're very clear that if you want to run IT as a business, that is very horizontal. The processes, the intellectual property, implementations are very horizontal. Clearly, there are areas where you'd have some industry expertise. But for 80-plus percent of the IT world, which is where we focus on, it's horizontal. We're talking apples to apples, pears to pears comparisons across our customers. The vast majority of our business is in the enterprise space. For example, Novadigm seats bodies for 300-plus servers so that's not an SMB [small and medium business] play. The sweet spot of OpenView from the customer's standpoint is you have to have someone who's running network operations or infrastructure operations.

We are also very clear as a business that our target and our focus is on the CIO, the VP of application development, the VP of operations, and a line of business executives whose bottom lines depend on marrying the business processes to technologies. They don't want to know about technology, they want to know if their customers top off their funds. They want to know what it costs to have that system and what happens when it's running well and what happens when it's not running well from a financial standpoint. We like to make the CIO a hero. We're not going to come in and tell him how to run a retail business if he's a retailer. IBM's approach is "we're going to be deep in retail." They don't really sell to the CIO. I would say there strategy is to marginalize the CIO and throw a lot of consultants at them. I'm not going to sit here and criticize them. Their strategy is just different. Their strategy is they're going to talk to the CEO or CFO around a business strategy issue and the COO is not ultimately the key decision maker. One of the reasons they acquired PwC [consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers] is to be able to have that kind of conversation.

Q: So they let the service people be the experts?

That's exactly right. Our core expertise is we do great architectures, we understand management and we are focusing our energy and strength on our core competency, whether you're in retail or financial services. We have areas of particular strength -- telecommunications if you combine the HP and Compaq businesses together -- is a significant strength in terms of harder platforms and so on. So, telco is a big vertical market for us but overall our intent is to help manage the horizontal IT infrastructure. IBM and others look at a business process vertically and says what do we need to support that process? There's no ebbs and flows throughout, there's no adaptiveness throughout, because it's just very focused on drilling down into silos.

Q: Can you talk about the distinctions between Adaptive Enterprise and IBM's on-demand computing strategy?

Adaptive Enterprise is business and IT capitalized on change and it can take many forms whether you are standardizing your hardware, or standardizing from an applications standpoint. Here's a great example for us. We have 47 implementations of Siebel around the world we're going to go to one. With simplification and standardization, everyone is going to get the same version and the same UI. It was astonishing to me to discover we had 47. Adaptive Enterprise is the ability to manage this stack from the business process layer, including the applications that you have and the infrastructure, architecture, simplification and modularity around what you do.

The on-demand stuff is whatever you want because we can throw enough professional services at it at potentially a significant cost to be able to give you what you need, or what we think you need as you need it. To some companies that's going to be extremely appealing. To others, it's going to be unbounded. We're very clear that the space that we play in is business process, application, infrastructure and the on-demand stuff has a high quotient of customized implementation and we believe the days of customization are severely numbered. So when I said in our case we've got 47 implementations of Siebel going down to one not a single line of custom code on top of it. Then we'll standardize on Oracle and Exchange. That seems pretty obvious to you and me. Almost every company we talk to says 'We haven't done that yet.' We have very standardized ways of looking at the world. And I would say IBM's view is much more customized and there will companies that will absolutely do that.