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IBM's Tivoli Tries To Change With The Times

In 1996, IBM purchased Tivoli Systems to bolster its systems and network management capabilities. Since then, the vendor has used acquisitions and internal development to create a comprehensive product line, garnered a significant following among large enterprises and emerged as a top tier supplier. "IBM is IBM. It is a significant force in the network and systems management market," says Jean-Pierre Garbani, VP at Forrester Research.

Yet, the vendor faces various challenges. Because many of its components have different foundations, the Tivoli product line has a bit of a hodgepodge feel. Also, the product’s historic foundation has not meshed well with recent market shifts. “Being a large company, IBM tends to respond slowly to market changes,” states Mary Johnston Turner, research VP, Enterprise System Management Software, at market research firm IDC. For instance, the vendor does not have much of a story to tell in the area of mobile device management.

Consequently, IBM now sits at an important crossroad. Consolidation looms on the network and system management horizon. Half a dozen vendors--BMC Software, CA, HP. IBM, Oracle and Microsoft--dominate the market, but that number could be cut in half in the coming years. Despite its size and track record, IBM’s position is somewhat tenuous. Like HP, IBM needs to determine if it wants to sell products or focus on services in the future.

Network and system management has evolved dramatically since Tivoli was formed back in 1989. The IBM management software suite, which is lumped under its software group, has branched out through internal development as well as via more than a few dozen acquisitions. As a result, IBM breaks the Tivoli line into a variety of categories, such as asset management; business application management; security management; server, network and device management; service management; service provider solutions; and solutions for growing medium businesses. The product breadth is one reason why the company has garnered a significant customer base--one on which many of the world’s largest enterprises, such as Bank of America, Sears Holding and Merck & Co., rely to control their systems.

One downside of the raft of purchases is that the different tools sometimes lack an integrated feel. While they often share a common user interface, their underlying foundation operates in distinct ways, which can make management more difficult and create additional training requirements.

In addition, the management market is undergoing significant changes, some of which IBM has responded to and others where more work is needed. Autonomous areas--such as network, server and storage systems--are now being consolidated. In fact, the vendor has been a prime force in the movement to this new unified computing infrastructure. IBM has the server and storage elements needed, and has been working with Juniper Networks to deliver the networking component. The vendor has enhanced its provisioning and configuration solutions so that they operate in this new environment.

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