Providing a balm for the complexity headaches facing IT managerssktops in the SME market alone, never mind big time corporates, has become a stressful part of an IT manager's workload. But help is at hand with the advent of complexity management software. today are a handful of companies with small, but growing product portfolios.
Complexity management software is designed to gather as many of the IT management threads as possible and present a unified display of the installations significant events.
Hewlett Packard's OpenView software is one such product. It recently underwent a significant overhaul in terms of what it can do for the user and how the channel can earn a crust from carrying the OpenView banner to the offices of stressed out IT managers.
But while wide area bandwidth prices are dropping by 15 per cent per year, a recent Gartner Group survey found that actual network expenditure is still increasing by 30 per cent per annum. This is particularly true in light of the demands made by video, the internet and ATM technologies.
Whatever bandwidth providers aren't consuming is being snapped up by the network management workload. 'The opportunity for resellers is huge - 90 per cent of SAP R/3 networks have no adequate management scheme,' says Scott Safe, product marketing manager at HP's OpenView software division, based in Boblingen, Germany. 'We push between 55 and 60 per cent of OpenView products through the channel, which is more than Tivoli or CA or BMC.'
HP, especially in Europe, is trying to make OpenView a simpler proposition for users as well as the channel - a pretty good idea for a complexity management tool. 'We are introducing simpler pricing, pre-installed packages, pre-configured software and are even instituting pre-packing of services for the channel,' says Christophe Pfister, worldwide product manager at HP's OpenView software division. The trend is towards user-based pricing.
'Customers quite reasonably want to know how much it is all going to cost,' he adds.
One of the biggest problems for OpenView users and the channel is the need to buy consultancy services that often defy precise pricing. HP plans to bring in a set of fixed time and price consultancy engagement packages, which will allow businesses to deliver certain OpenView services at a package price to clinch the deal even if their own skillset is thin in spots for a given client.
This adds to the ease of bidding while not allowing a hole to open in the earth that swallows an unwary customer or unlucky OpenView partner.
Safe argues that the packaging of OpenView services is the key to driving volume.
HP's arrangements with SAP make a powerful selling proposition for any OpenView partner. 'The return on investment is routinely less than a year. In 1,000 OpenView R/3 sites, downtime was cut by 70 per cent, revenue loss from downtime was down 78 per cent and user availability up by 34 per cent,' Pfister claims.
'You have to implement SAP with network and project management capabilities at full extent,' adds Buzz Walker, marketing manager of desktop and software management for the OpenView software division. 'If you aren't tooled up for SAP, a 18 months later you might come across problems. It can lead to wasted upgrades - you pay for the software but never get to use it before the next upgrade comes along.' But while SAP R/3 may be emerging as a critical part of corporate management, it is not an easy tool to use and one that takes time to master.
There is a lot of channel anger and suspicion aimed at vendors that also go direct. HP wants to distance itself from the fracas - it consistently claims that the product delivery mix is tailored to the business needs of the customer, providing deep and broad channels to suit all potential customers.
In Europe, HP has about a 50:50 split of direct versus channel business.
In the UK, the split leans towards 80:20 in favour of the channel. Europe will be following the UK's example in due course.
'We are boosting the sales and marketing forces, making marketing funds available and developing better partner schemes,' says Karl Chen, worldwide marketing manager for HP's OpenView Windows NT systems. 'We expect to see results in the short term. Our pricing is channel neutral - our partners don't have to worry about a direct sales team underbidding them.'
According to Anton Knolmar, channel development manager at HP's Marketing Centre Europe, in financial year 1999, the vendor will double both its investment in the channel in terms of marketing funds and in-house sales and marketing support resources.
One of HP's partners in the UK is Lattis, a small consultancy that specialises in network management and monitoring and business process modelling tools.
'OpenView enables us to bring a diverse palette of tools to bear on real world network management problems,' says Greg Bryan, managing director of Lattis. 'HP's ability to work with other vendors' products and services is very valuable. It means we can create packages for network management even where an OpenView component isn't required or available.'
Lattis has launched a network usage-based billing system that is intended to help large organisations manage their enterprise network costs. NetCFOTM has been developed by Tribeca Software, an offshoot of US network integrator Predictive Systems. Lattis is the only appointed business partner of Tribeca Software in Europe. 'There is no conflict between our HP business and the other partnerships we are involved in,' Bryan insists.
HP is also keen to build up partner relationships. Knolmar says: 'We want to win business and keep it - for that we need more partners. We have 250 partners throughout Europe and between 30 and 40 of them are in the UK. There's so much opportunity the company will miss if we do not increase our partner numbers.'
But OpenView isn't just a creature that's solely dependant on HP's Unix business. HP has noted the rise of Windows NT and has taken steps to provide management facilities in OpenView to meet the needs of that emerging market.
The big issue with NT and enterprise networks is managing change and the distributed environment, Chen believes. Although many network management tools for NT networks have sprung up to fill the vacuum left by Microsoft, for NT to work in a heterogeneous business setting, it must come under the management umbrella of an enterprise complexity management package.
OpenView aims to fill this gap with the NetMetrix Site Manager and other tools.
While many fine words have been spoken about the importance of NT while shipping enterprise class Unix and other midrange products, HP plans to bring NT into the fold, Microsoft willing or not.
'We don't live in a fairyland where everything is NT or running on HP,' admits Knolmar. 'We are here to take advantage of all network management challenges. Sun Microsystems has given us a lot of opportunities as it has pulled back from the network management software sector. And as NT and Unix on PC hardware goes higher in the organisation, we are finding more opportunities for partners that are coming up from the PC world to add to our high-end Unix practitioners.'
One place where NT is creeping in is enterprise resource management.
SAP R/3 for NT is receiving special attention, especially with regards to storage management, explains Ottmar Schneider, operation manager at OpenView storage management.
'There's an increasing trend for distributed systems to go towards storage-centric architectures and away from server-centric implementations,' he says. 'We supply Omniback for both NT and Unix so systems administrators can develop one skill set and use it in the highly variegated networks that are being built today.
'When you begin to put ERP systems onto NT platforms, the need for distributed backup and recovery becomes critical,' Schneider adds.
OpenView is spreading out to cover more IT territory both up and down the scale of business computing. For a Var, integrator or ISV, having an OpenView team as a business alliances is useful if it has aspirations of spreading out and making products available to a broader audience.
Networks are here to stay and they probably won't become any easier to manage as they expand in size and importance. If businesses have one corner of the network puzzle nailed down, it makes sense to leverage that knowledge in all possible directions by working with channel-friendly vendors that can complete the picture for their present clients and open the doors to others.
It seems while there are network headaches, there's good business to be had - if you have the cure.
ONE FOR ALL AND ALL FOR ONE
Anytime there is a complex product that plays a vital role in corporate computing infrastructure, there is fertile ground for the formation of a user group to facilitate communication between the users and the vendor.
It is not surprising, then, that the non-profit making OpenView Forum International plays a big part in the evolution of all the various OpenView developments.
'We are primarily here for the users,' explains Sandra Potter, director and president of OpenView Forum. 'But we can do the most good for our members by working closely with Hewlett Packard and the channel to explore issues as they arise and steer the evolution of OpenView and the delivery of necessary products and services.' Rather than a rod for HP's back, the OpenView Forum International sees itself as a partner.
Although the organisation styles itself as 'international', the OpenView Universe user group gathering held recently in Prague drove home the point that the Forum needs to live up to its name.
'We found that the European channel partners are largely ignorant of our efforts. This year, we want to get the message that our role is truly global and it is in everyone's best interests to get connected,' Potter says.
Part of the Forum's initiative this year will be establishing additional local chapters in Europe. There are branches in Germany, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, France and Belgium but there's a long way to go and many opportunities remain unexplored, Potter admits.
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