Fighting to keep its lead among aggressive competitors, IBM Tivoli in the coming year plans to improve its IT service management offerings to help Big Blue deliver on its autonomic computing and On Demand Business promises.

Since its acquisition by IBM in 1996, Tivoli has successfully given IBM an edge with its systems management software. According to Gartner, IBM in 2003 led the market for enterprise systems management software with nearly 34 percent of worldwide licence revenue, which overall grew about 11 percent in 2003 to $5.6 billion. Competitor Computer Associates trailed IBM with about 12 percent, followed by BMC Software at just more than 8 percent and HP with about 7 percent.

Within IBM, Tivoli also managed to make promising numbers. Overall, IBM's software group - comprised of five divisions - increased its revenue in the third quarter of 2004 to $3.6 billion, up 5 percent from 2003's third quarter. Of that, revenue for IBM's Tivoli grew 19 percent overall, and specifically, Tivoli security software revenue was up 47 percent. IBM doesn't offer specific dollar figures for its software divisions.

In the coming year, Tivoli hopes to break further away from the big four management vendors and make IBM the leader in IT service management as well. Tivoli will play a bigger role in tying IT systems directly to business processes and objectives, and managing groups of IT components as services.

Expand the plan
For Tivoli, that means expanding beyond its systems management expertise and into server, identity, application, and change and configuration management, as well as IT governance, or managing the allocation of IT resources. Tivoli executives (mostly veteran IBMers) say the management software group will play a key role in helping customers enable automated IT service management across their enterprise networks.

"The transformation of Tivoli isn't about it becoming more absorbed into IBM. It's about Tivoli doing more than systems management," says Bob Madey, vice president of strategy and business development for Tivoli and a 24-year IBM veteran. "Tivoli is going to deliver the common architecture and common data models to link IT performance to business processes. Within the next three years, all Tivoli applications will be built on a service-oriented architecture and share an underlying data model to enable data sharing across enterprise systems."

Another example of how Tivoli plans to weave its technology throughout IBM is in Big Blue's Common Event Infrastructure (CEI), the future development of which falls to Tivoli and its peer WebSphere and DB2 software divisions. CEI is based on the IBM-developed Common Base Event specification, a standard format for event logs that devices and software can use to keep track of transactions and other activity.

CEI would enable WebSphere business process events and network device events from Tivoli monitoring products to be integrated, normalised and correlated on one screen for IT managers. The goal is to more quickly show the IT cause for a business process slowdown.

Tivoli also intends to head up Big Blue's push for automating IT actions along the lines of business objectives with technology centres and partnerships. For example, IBM last week announced the Advanced Tivoli Orchestration and Provisioning Technology Centre, which is designed to help customers perform proofs of concept with IBM's gear and Tivoli's automated server provisioning software that it acquired from ThinkDynamics.

"The move to an On Demand operating environment is fairly heavy stuff. These types of initiatives, these technology centres, are designed to give our customers the practical experience they need to accelerate their adoption of automated IT management," Madey says.

Somebody to lean on
Yet IBM is quick to acknowledge Tivoli can't do it all on its own. This year the company partnered with gear vendor Cisco to develop products to automate access and identity management, as well as server and storage management.

The identity management products are set to be available this month and draw on technology Cisco uses in its Network Admission Control (NAC) initiative, which involves the company partnering with anti-virus vendors to scan client devices and determine if they can gain access to a network. For example, the Tivoli compliance software will scan for operating systems, patches, firewalls, applications such as Kazaa and viruses, to determine if a device can gain access.

Cisco also earlier this year developed switch hardware for IBM's BladeCenter products that will help improve traffic flows inside blade server chassis, the companies say. Integration of IBM server and storage provisioning software with Cisco Catalyst 6500 LAN switches and MDS 9000 storage-area network switches will let users operate data centre network and computing infrastructure as one system.

On one hand, being part of IBM does provide its benefits. For one, vendors such as Cisco are willing to co-develop products, and a pool of new customers will be made available to Tivoli salespeople. Despite tough competition, Tivoli executives are betting their affiliation with IBM will knock down any unopened doors.

"One of our core strengths as a business is that we can rely on the rest of IBM. If Tivoli makes a statement, it's not just Tivoli, it's an IBM technology initiative," Madey says. "That carries weight."

Brandname or strategy?
On the other hand, Tivoli faces potential extinction as a distinct product within IBM. As competitor HP pulls its OpenView management software into the forefront of HP's Adaptive Enterprise strategy - which competes neck-and-neck with IBM's On Demand Business plans - IBM keeps Tivoli in the background. While Big Blue plans to make Tivoli a core component of the company's underlying infrastructure across software brands, it's unlikely customers could recognise the management technology within larger software packages IBM delivers.

"Tivoli is now just another product at IBM," says Jasmine Noel, a principal at analyst firm Ptak, Noel & Associates. "The value in that is they can potentially sell to more customers, but the danger is that their software could become shelf-ware as part of a larger IBM bundle unless IBM plays it up."

She argues that IBM will have to work a bit harder than, say, HP to make its management software prowess known. "HP has OpenView name recognition among network managers. Tivoli never got that widespread recognition, but it does have IBM to make itself known," she says.

Noel adds to look for Big Blue to shop for change and configuration management (CCM) software from start-ups such as Collation, mValent and Troux. Competitor BMC picked up CCM technology with its Marimba acquisition, while HP did the same with its Novadigm purchase.

Meanwhile, 2004 saw IBM acquire Cyanea Systems for application monitoring, sometime competitor Candle, mostly for its mainframe customer base, and Systemcorp, a Canadian company that makes IT governance software. According to Goldman Sachs, IBM should continue to fill technology gaps because customers are moving further away from point product purchases to signing with one vendor to meet all their management needs.