Hewlett Packard (HP) has challenged IBM for leadership in supplying "utility" computing services by overhauling its OpenView systems management software suite.
The company detailed a series of products to strengthen OpenView at its Software Universe event in Lisbon on Tuesday.
These include version 6.4 of its OpenView Network Node Manager and version 2 of its Network Node Manager Extended Topology, which give businesses more power to predict network problems and to investigate the root causes of them.
Other products aim to improve OpenView's management of web services, application servers, and Microsoft's Active Directory Service.
André Spatz, chief information officer of charity Unicef, which runs a complex series of networks across more than 160 countries, welcomed the updates.
"It's a logical progression and will be useful for us," he said. "What is encouraging is that HP is pushing IT services management and the idea of adaptive systems.
"This is good news for someone like us, whose computing infrastructure has to be truly global."
IBM was first off the blocks with its much-publicised vision for self-healing networks and for "utility" computing.
Theoretically it allows companies to treat IT as a service bought in from outside in variable amounts when needed, like electricity or gas. But utility computing is far from easy: companies must manage multiple systems and platforms as if they were one.
"Utility computing will happen. Talk to any chief information officer and the biggest challenge that keeps them awake at night is the management of the environment," said Peter Blackmore, worldwide head of HP's enterprise systems group.
HP is pushing OpenView as the building block for utility computing along with Utility Data Centre (UDC), which allows resources to be more easily shared, reallocated and remotely managed across networks.
Several companies are piloting UDC, announced last November, but HP has yet to name any customers.
HP withdrew from the middleware and application server markets earlier this year to concentrate on OpenView.
Will Cappelli, research fellow at analyst Giga Information Group, said HP had the edge over IBM in delivering utility computing technology.
"HP has a hard product - they have a first draft, whereas IBM has just got a blueprint," he said.
HP and IBM are the frontrunners in utility computing, Capelli added. Sun Microsystems was late to the game with its N1 utility computing strategy - which is far less advanced in terms of deliverable products - and may have to buy a niche technology provider to compete, he said.
Over the next 18 months, HP says it will release further utility computing products, including technologies that allow virtual aggregation of network resources and better support for business processes, service management, and service level agreements.
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