Monday, July 23, 2007

HP's Opsware buy highlights burgeoning role of management

I'm sitting at an engaging Open Group conference on SOA and its deep impact across IT and enterprises. A common theme, not surprisingly, is the issue of control ... some of the biggest fears about SOA is that it may be too good, too inclusive -- and may consequently spin out of control.

Managing complexity is at the heart of making SOA successful, but it's a double-edged sword. SOA can both slay and spawn complexity. Who wants to swap out integration complexity for services-driven operational and governance complexity?

Sure, SOA can bring more agility to the business processes that span companies, industries and commercial relationships. But at what cost if it's done poorly? If we gain agility but suffer chaos, breakdowns, lack of control and even more higher-abstraction complexity -- you'll see closed and brittle silos of IT assets remain very popular.

At the same time that SOA needs to be controlled well to be productive, we're seeing massive re-centralization of IT resources -- especially hardware, storage and networking infrastructure. Again, there's a tension here between efficiency and the dangers of having all your eggs in one basket. Going from nine datacenters to two makes a lot of sense, unless one of the two is out of control.

It seems to me that HP is evolving and inserting itself into the role of arbiter between control and creativity on many essential levels. We saw this in the Mercury acquisition last year, and we're seeing a affirmation of this role for HP in today's Opsware announcement.

IBM wants to help you keep your company special. HP, it seems, wants to let you know how to keep it stable.

The largest enterprises will thrive or stumble on their ability to gain agility and creativity, along with operational efficiency. They must go hand-in-hand. But true management comes with holistic control -- that which spans operational and systems management, heterogeneous datacenters management, services governance, IT governance -- and ultimately business governance. There needs to be semantic continuity to how all these management layers relate, and that usually means standards.

I was recently quoted in an article on IT and SOA management, and I believe that the distinctions between layers of management need bridging via standards and expertise.

This type of widely and deeply inclusive management and control has been missing in the IT industry. HP is demonstrating by its organic and acquisitions growth that this will be one of the essential pillars of functionality it will provide for the IT infrastructures of the future. Vigorous commercial competition and aggressive open communities involvement will be essential for making IT and automated business management conceptually and practically coordinated.

I hope we see more open source and community-based initiatives from HP to augment and accelerate its recent acquisitions activities. Opsware will be a powerful asset for HP for many years to come.

Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.