IBM Tivoli Pulse: Tivoli product updates and cloud confusion

RedMonk analyst Michael Cote outlines IBM's strategy for Tivoli after attending the IBM Tivoli Pulse conference in Orlando. IBM touted Tivoli's new asset management integration with MRO's Maximo.

Draining the sea of announcements from IBM's Tivoli Pulse down a bit, three pools emerge: the integration of the acquired MRO's Maximo line into the Tivoli worldview; new green functionality for Tivoli, and a look into what IBM is doing in cloud computing.

Tivoli's acquisition of MRO
With the MRO Software acquisition this year, Tivoli's central aspiration now revolves around the cataloging and management of all of the company's non-human and non-intellectual assets: servers, networks, plants, factories, desktops, storage, power grids and just about anything else that could be tagged, tracked and monitored.

The core of IT management is still there -- simply keeping data centers and desktops humming and servicing the IT needs of the organization. But the MRO acquisition brings a host of non-IT assets and the resulting work flows into Tivoli's domain.

Clearly, Tivoli's ambition is to roll these two disparate disciplines into one, expanding the idea of "infrastructure" out from just computers and software needed to support the business, taking on a maximal scope for Business Service Management.

The prospects are murky, if not challenging. Even within IT, we see combative divisions between the network team, the application team, the Windows team, the server team and other teams defined by the assets and IT processes they control. Getting those completely separate teams of facilities, fleet or power-grid management to simply fall in line with those "bozos from IT" is a tall order. It begs the question: Should they be more unified?

IBM software product updates
During Pulse, Tivoli announced several updates to product lines, the release of Maximo 7.1 and a new grouping of offerings under the banner of service management and process automation. All of IBM Software is focused on reaping huge revenue increases from the mid-market over the next few years. The competition is rough for a company like IBM: There are numerous open source and low-cost IT management offerings, and at the same time, the Windows-heavy underpinnings of this market segment make Microsoft a default consideration for many.

The last cluster of offerings around process automation is a veritable omnibus of Tivoli and Maximo functionality that focuses primarily on process and workflow management, along with monitoring and management automation improvements.

Also announced during the week of Pulse was an interesting update to IBM Tivoli Federated Identity Manager, which seems to have taken up the spirit of user-centric identity management -- or "Identity 2.0" -- by adding support for OpenID, Eclipse Higgins and Microsoft CardSpace.

Tivoli and Maximo go green
The headlining product announcement was the addition of green-friendly features for power and heat management into existing Tivoli and Maximo software. For the data center, this means collecting metrics on energy usage and heat in the server room. More so than just collecting this information, Tivoli products and partners aid in planning for new equipment with these metrics. For example, where would be the best place to put a new server?

The impressiveness here is two-fold: bringing actual metrics to the question of power consumption and building out an ecosystem of vendors to service reacting to those metrics. Much green-in-the-data-center talk often comes off as fluffery that can't be executed. In this case, the overall offering seems to take in environmental readings on one end and spit out actionable to-do lists and recommendations on the other.

IBM and cloud computing
So far, IBM has had a rough time not only accepting the idea of cloud computing, but explaining an offering that matches the promises of simplicity that draws the crowd to the concept. This isn't to say that IBM doesn't have something to offer with the label "cloud" on it. Indeed, there are many offerings, most of which, sadly, are the all-too typical "we already do that" or "complex problems require complex solutions" rejoinders of a tech company caught arriving late to the party.

While there were many answers to the cloud computing question, to be favorable, IBM had two general schools of thought.

The first revolves around the idea that cloud computing is about providing cheap, non-mission critical computing that can be expanded and contracted per usage need. The touch points for this thinking are currently defined by public Web-available incumbents like Amazon EC2. The non-mission critical aspect was key for many IBMers.

While there are many Web-based workloads that can be moved to the cloud, there are still endless mission-critical tasks that must be kept in a traditional data center. Pull out the cliché specter of banks to fill in the rest of the usual mission-critical boogie man.

The second IBM school of cloud-think hits closer to the mark, but is tragically narrow in focus. Here, cloud computing is about making IT provisioning practically self-service. As David Lindquist, chair of IBM's Blue Cloud Architecture group, said during an IBMer-packed panel on cloud computing: "Without a doubt, certainly one of the most exciting aspects of cloud computing is the user interface experience."

The focus is on what came to be called "request driven provisioning," or going to a Web page and simply clicking to request and check out servers needed for some IT task. Virtualization and automation are the hammers to the nails here.

IBM yet to be sold on cloud computing?
Clearly, the non-mission critical conception of cloud computing is a dismissive position, while the second is more of an embrace. The end result is a confused message that makes it look as if IBM as a whole doesn't get cloud computing.

My hope is that we can look toward IBM's uptake around Web 2.0 for a silver lining. IBM had similar positions on Web 2.0, thinking from its deep mental and revenue entrenchments in Lotus and good old-fashioned, not-invented-here syndrome. Slowly but surely, Web 2.0 ideas spread through IBM and can now be found throughout the DB2, WebSphere and Lotus brands.

Out of all the software brands at IBM, Tivoli tends to be the most conservative, which you would expect being from the data-center crowd. But breaking out of that mold is exactly the point of cloud computing. Nevermind the existing mindset of "complex problems required complex solutions" (enterprise software requires enterprise systems management).

Rather than just managing the complex, IT management vendors like Tivoli must focus on simplifying the complex in the first place. Cloud computing is currently dangling that simplification bauble in front of the world's eyes and it seems that IBM is still overly upset that they're not holding the string to start crafting their own cloud gem.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Coté is analyst at RedMonk, covering primarily enterprise software, specializing in open source, IT management, software development, the Web, and social/collaborative software. He is RedMonk's IT Management Lead. His blog is available at PeopleOverProcess.com, and he produces the RedMonk podcast and the video podcast, RedMonkTV.

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