A series of announcements around Hewlett-Packard's (HP's) software and services portfolio in the past month has focused attention on the company's Adaptive Enterprise vision.
At HP's annual Software Universe user conference in Hamburg, executives revealed how the company is using its recent acquisition of Talking Blocks, Baltimore Technologies and more fruits from its merger with Compaq to introduce 40 software and services offerings.
These new packages were arranged around the people, process and technology pillars of HP's Adaptive Enterprise plan, aimed at making IT organisations able to adapt to change more quickly.
Assessment services and out-of-the-box configurations promise to improve the efficiency of both people and processes, while HP said that an extended Open View software portfolio offers the potential for centrally managing all IT.
On top of this the vendor revealed plans to acquire data-archiving firm Persist Technologies and a software management alliance with SAP.
And with the positive set of fourth-quarter financial results that followed, HP chairman and chief executive Carly Fiorina claimed: "Customers have been looking for an alternative to IBM, and they've found it in HP."
But according to Neil Macehiter, research director at analyst Ovum, such a big launch will make it hard for companies to work out where the value lies.
"Organisations will be very conscious of how these 40 products will impact their bottom line," he explained.
Teasing out which offerings will be most important is something that hard-pressed chief technology officers have less and less time to do.
The most compelling of the new HP additions are likely to be those that promise to consolidate infrastructure management teams across platforms or achieve best practice standards of operational efficiency more quickly.
For example, HP Systems Insight Manager is a cross-management platform for Windows, Unix-based HP-UX and Linux.
It combines the existing capabilities of Insight Manager 7, Service Control Manager and Compaq's Toptools, to provide a single console view of a consolidated server environment.
Software that is capable of pulling together all of HP's knowledge from its acquisitions to integrate IT systems will be key to the development of what HP characterises as an 'adaptive enterprise'.
So its web services capabilities from the Baltimore acquisition have contributed to the authorisation and authentication functionality of Open View Select Access for better application integration.
It is also adding Talking Blocks' technology to the Open View Management Integration Platform, initially offering interoperability with web services. Interoperability with other applications will be added in the coming months.
The flowering of these fruits of its acquisitions show HP getting its house in order, according to Macehiter. But he warns of confusion where execution has become blurred in the rush to deliver on initial potential.
"There is an element of overlap between many HP products where, for example, the Select Access technology handles elements of web services security that the Talking Blocks offering also covers."
This means that it could become difficult to decide which product to use in the long term, leaving users with a not quite so adaptive enterprise.
HP's vision seems clearer in the services arena, where it demonstrated a determination to exploit the full capabilities of its tools.
The IT Service Management Best Practices for HP Open View Service Desk may be a mouthful, but it offers pre-configured processes that claim to take 80 per cent of the pain out of deploying and customising Service Desk.
"HP has significant experience of a broad range of IT environments. As long as these packaged services are extensible and are more of a template model - acknowledging that no two organisations are the same - then they should be able to solve 60 to 80 per cent of problems," said Macehiter.
But IBM's 'on demand' vision has progressed rapidly this year and is likely to be used as a yardstick for HP's execution.
Peter Blackmore, enterprise systems group executive vice president at HP, attempted to answer sceptics at the Universe conference.
"We have a fundamental difference of approach [to IBM]," he said. "HP has an open, partnering, adaptive framework. We are concentrated on open standards and are able to manage third-party platforms."
So now HP must show how its new features fit into the people, processes and technologies that run businesses today.
But all of this activity could confuse HP's target market just as much as it hopes to impress, dazzling customers with volume rather than content.
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