Management apps get Cs, Ds

?Management software heavyweights BMC, CA, HP and IBM are barely making the grade with their customers, earning C and D averages and driving IT buyers to look elsewhere for their operations management needs, according to a recent Gartner poll.

While the Big 4 vendors continue to dominate the top market share slots in IT operations management, Gartner advises the established players to not get complacent based on its 2006 data centre conference survey of close to 640 IT buyers. More than 40 per cent of respondents gave the incumbent market leaders a C grade, while nearly 30 per cent suggested the vendors’ performance to be closer to a D average.

“Continuing customer satisfaction issues, the emergence of new technology and service delivery approaches, and the rise of large technology infrastructure providers expanding their capabilities into management software all contribute to making these industry leaders vulnerable,” Gartner analysts write in a recent report.

Among the several causes for the current customer dissatisfaction is market immaturity, Gartner says, which has management vendors constantly playing catch-up with emerging technologies. For instance, the shift from client-server applications to n-tier applications required those companies monitoring application performance to re-architect their software to keep up in the more dynamic environment. And best practice frameworks such as the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) will contribute to IT operation process maturity and eventually automation, but will also require vendors that delivered products to address specific pain points to streamline their offerings into integrated suites.

“It will be three to five years before vendors engineer management software into integrated, consumable suites and even longer for customers to deploy them,” Gartner says.

In the meantime, about one-third of management software buyers polled want to see better pricing and ease-of-use from vendors and would consider other existing vendors a management software supplier.

“Although a grade of C may be considered as middle of the road and not terribly bad, it is also not terribly positive, which opens suppliers in the industry up to competition and potential replacement,” the report reads.

The management market is about US$10 billion and growing, Gartner says, and doing so considerably faster than both the middleware and applications market. With the big four owning about 55 per cent of the market, that leaves room for further consolidation among established players, but also opens the door to fringe players looking to expand further into the management market — companies such as EMC, Microsoft, Oracle and Symantec. For instance, when Gartner asked which vendors represent a challenge to the management players, about 35 per cent of 106 people polled said Microsoft and nearly 25 per cent pointed to Oracle.

“They are large business application software suppliers whose software would be leverage to manage the business of IT,” Gartner says of Microsoft and Oracle. “They are software vendors with sizeable installed based from which they can leverage additional functionality and revenue, including that for management software.”

Customers will not only look to different vendors, they will also consider new software delivery models, such as open source software and software as a service, Gartner says. Among a subset of 106 people polled, more than half said they would use open source management products in place of software from the Big 4 vendors. Yet about 40 per cent cited concerns over technical support as an area in need of improvement. More than 20 per cent said integration with their existing products could pose a problem and nearly 20 per cent reported vendor viability could be a problem with open source management software. Within that same subset of 106 surveyed, about 44 per cent said they would consider software-as-a-service for operations management needs, but admitted issues with integration, security and functionality would need improvements.

“An interesting scenario that may emerge is the combination of SaaS and [open source management] offerings, a hybridization that could act as a catalyst to improve the level of differentiation possible in the SaaS market,” Gartner says. For instance, many SaaS vendors use commercial tools with little customization to provide management services. Gartner suggests SaaS vendors use open source code, tweak it and differentiate themselves, but that still won’t fix all the concerns about either software delivery model.

“It is important to note that most of the SaaS and open source management offerings available are primarily point tools that do not offer the same breadth of the tools from industry leaders,” Gartner writes.

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