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HP Aims To Improve Software Management

HP used to spend 70% of its R&D budget on hardware and 30% on software, but that ratio has reversed, says Mark Potts, CTO of HP's Management Software Business.

Mark Potts is a former large-system software architect who in 2000 left his consulting job in Perth, Australia, to come to San Francisco as founder and CTO of Talking Blocks, an early Web services management firm. His firm was acquired by Hewlett-Packard in 2003.

Potts' facility for thinking through software issues -- he's never at a loss for words -- and his understanding of the emerging services architecture netted him the CTO job at HP's core software unit, the Management Software Business in HP's Software Global Business.

Mark Potts, CTO of the Management Software Business at Hewlett-Packard

Mark Potts
CTO of Software, Hewlett-Packard

Nora Denzel, senior VP of HP's Software Global Business unit at the time of the Talking Blocks acquisition, and Al Smith, former CTO of HP Web Services Management, have left HP since the acquisition. Potts' boss is Tom Hogan, now the senior VP of HP Software.

Potts, a young-looking 40, is on a mission to let the world know that HP understands how to manage the burgeoning enterprise Web services and service-oriented architectures. On a recent rainy afternoon, sitting in his Fairmount Hotel room a stone's throw from his former Talking Blocks offices, Potts launched into where he sees HP's software initiative going.

"Service-oriented architecture has to become part of the development, operations, and governance agendas," he said. And it's going to require new enterprise software to automate SOA management as much as possible. HP has been busy compiling integrated sets of that software, while retiring the venerated OpenView name from its software lexicon.

Its new portfolio sits atop the old one. But HP no longer uses OpenView, opting instead to highlight its new centers of integrated products. They include HP Application Security Center, HP Service Management Center, HP Performance Center, and HP Quality Center. Parts of OpenView are now known by such names as HP Network Node Manager or HP Operations Support, as part of the Network Management Center, he said.

HP "has a lot of people looking at vulnerabilities in preproduction code. We've built code to do source code inspection. It's very costly to find vulnerabilities and change them once they're in production code," Potts said. The former SPI Dynamics product line is now part of HP Application Security Center in such products as Devinspect and QAinspect.

In all, HP's management software portfolio totals 80 products, instead of a few OpenView-related selections. When he joined HP, the company spent 70% of its R&D budget on hardware and 30% on software. Over the last three years he's seen that ratio reverse, with 70% of a $3.6 billion R&D budget now spent on software.

"We are the sixth-largest software company in the world, and the fastest-growing, most profitable division of HP. We've grown 100% year to year," he said.

Potts' Australian accent is still recognizable, but it's been softened by the years spent getting a computer science degree at Brookes University in Oxford, England, and building up Talking Blocks.

Before buying Talking Blocks, HP bought Bluestone Software, an application server and middleware supplier. Since Talking Blocks, it's bought SPI Dynamics security software, Mercury Interactive test and performance-monitoring software, Systinet Web services management software, Peregrine Systems asset management, and Opsware data center automation. Nine out of the world's top 11 security hackers came to HP through the SPI Dynamics acquisition, he boasts, although it's not immediately clear who ranked those top 11.

Another aspect of management that HP is promoting is services management, tracking the cost of building and using a service and knowing how to charge back for it. "To have a cost basis for a service -- now you can look at them as say, is it really worth it to continue to provide this service," he said.

HP CEO Mark Hurd "knows that if we are going to attack the CIO's problems, we are going to have to be equally a hardware and software/services company. We're going to have to double-down hard on management software," Potts added.

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