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Enhanced IT service broker tools part of new HP

HP's upgraded IT service management offerings are part of the soon-to-be HP Enterprise's efforts to turn IT departments into service brokers.

Making an IT department into a one-stop shop as an IT service broker is one part of the effort by HP to reshape itself into much more than a server manufacturer.

HP unveiled new features and upgrades to cloud service broker portal Propel and service desk software Service Anywhere this week. The updates are just one way the company is trying to help IT pros deliver services as quickly and easily as consumer cloud brokers, such as Amazon Web Services, which have more help desk support resources.

America First Credit Union, headquartered in Ogden, Utah, uses a software as a service (SaaS) version of Service Anywhere to improve its help desk tool and eliminate some servers, according to Jared Flanders, a systems monitoring engineer at the credit union.

So far, so good; the company previously used 11 servers for service management for its 100 branches, and with Service Anywhere, decreased to two servers. It has also improved the credit union's speed in addressing help desk tickets.

Both Propel and Service Anywhere have been on the market for about a year, but the latest upgrades include deeper integration, so IT departments can become better IT service brokers, providing one place to deliver and manage services and applications.

The latest product upgrades are all part of the company's evolution, said Stephen Belanger, an analyst with Technology Business Research Inc. in Hampton., N.H., who focuses on HP. Last week, for example, the company also unveiled new cloud, development and converged platforms.

"The announcement reflects HP's broader desire to evolve [HP] from being a technology provider to a strategic partner to customers undertaking transformational initiatives around cloud, analytics, security and mobility," Belanger said.

After HP splits into HP Inc. and HP Enterprise on Nov. 1, the new HP Enterprise must find a way to serve large, global and mid-size companies with technology management to cover both traditional IT and business technology, said Eveline Oehrlich, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., headquartered in Cambridge, Mass.

Automation of all tasks, processes and decisions is important for enterprises; IT service management (ITSM) allows organizations to automate key processes.

"The key is to keep the workforce productive -- no interruptions due to technology issues -- so they can drive revenue for the company in their jobs," Oehrlich said.

HP Propel and Service Anywhere grow up

The latest Propel and Service Anywhere upgrades help manage costs, complexity and security, as well as eliminate the need to lift and shift into new technology, so organizations can integrate systems at all levels and leave the back-end in place.

"Most of the time, legacy services are left off [of service broker systems]," said Roy Ritthaler, vice president of product marketing at HP, whose resume includes work as an engineer for IBM. "In reality, you really want it all."

These updates are important to enterprise customers because they allow organizations to simplify the use of IT services and applications, TBR's Belanger said.

The goal is to reduce enterprise operating costs and improve IT efficiency through these tools, Belanger said. However, while Propel is a great differentiator for HP, Service Anywhere is a "me-too product," Oehrlich said.

HP should have had a SaaS offering for Service Anywhere earlier and a service app store or a separate brokering product. The ITSM products can potentially bridge to HP's IT Operations Manager and analytics, Oehrlich said.

These products keep HP in the service management software space.
Eveline Oehrlichanalyst, Forrester Research

"These products keep HP in the service management software space," she said. "Their attention has not been on this and the competition has taken a giant leap -- not by innovation, but rather by HP not doing what they should have done three years ago."

Other similar products include ServiceNow, Cherwell Software's Service Management, BMC Remedy Service Management, Salesforce's Remedyforce and CA Technologies' CA Service Management.

Market analysis firms, such as Gartner Inc., report that IT spending continues to rise and in a "robust IT spending marketplace," HP hopes to help IT departments that are struggling to transition from the traditional IT structure to digital IT.

"You are going to see more and more of these products that are not just hardware, not just software and not just services, but a combination of it," Ritthaler said. "This foreshadows what you will see with the new Hewlett Packard Enterprise."

Pricing for both IT service broker products from HP is based on concurrent users or total number of users, and the products are available separately, either on-premises or by subscription, with subscription pricing under $50 per person per year.

Neither product is intended to counter so-called shadow IT and instead "embrace and extend it" by allowing forward-thinking CIOs to help create an IT department that is a complete service broker for end users, business users and developers, he said.

"The new yardstick is what is available on the consumer side," Ritthaler said.

Propel allows IT organizations to set up various service-level agreements for different departments and monitor each one. Services ordered by each business unit can be charged back to the department and not IT.

"It is like buying something on the Internet," Ritthaler said.

Service Anywhere speeds help desk resolutions

It took America First Credit Union eight weeks to get Service Anywhere up and running, and it was easier to implement than Flanders expected, he said.

One of the recent upgrades includes big data analysis to solve tickets initially, finding prior problem resolutions that are similar and pulling up knowledge articles that may help. It also provides a way to footnote an article for future reference.

"Having that big data information presented has made a difference," Flanders said.

America First uses an integrated HP Universal Configuration Management Database for automatic discovery of infrastructure components and includes that information in the Service Anywhere tickets.

The system helps make training new technicians easier and allows for more consistent answers, he said.

Flanders also uses the "white-glove" component of the service, which gives him a call with an HP representative every two weeks to talk about struggles, problems and feature requests.

One of his top feature requests had been a way to use the system for business needs outside the IT department and have a way to separate it. That feature was recently added, so the next step for America First is to use Service Anywhere for products that arrive in the mortgage department.

Employees there saw it work for IT tickets and suggested it could work for customer inquiries, too. That is in development now and data segmentation has not yet been tested.

Robert Gates covers data centers, data center strategies, server technologies, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure and open source operating systems for SearchDataCenter. Follow him on Twitter @RBGatesTT or Email him at [email protected].

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