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Integrated Suites, IT's Newest Push

The race is on. Will service suites solve complexity problems?

Over the past year, more and more business-technology professionals have been tasked with--and are being held accountable for--two core objectives. The first is to create a seamless, stable, secure, and adaptable architecture that allows organizations to get more accurate information to the necessary points at a faster pace. This has been mostly driven by regulatory compliance issues, mainly Sarbanes-Oxley, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Check 21, and the Patriot Act. The second is the need to do more with less. This pressure from the executive suite has caused most companies to reduce the number of vendors they partner with but, at the same time, squeeze more value from them. In fact, according to a recent InformationWeek Research study, the average number of IT vendors that an enterprise does business with is 27, versus a year ago when the number was 33 and 2000 when it was 82. That's pretty scary if you're number 26.

This pressure to become faster, more secure, more reliable, and more nimble has directly affected a technology category that was left for dead just a few years ago. This is the IT-service management suite. For years, BMC Software, Computer Associates, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM battled, trying to sell point solutions into the enterprise for network and systems, storage, security, or operations management. Problem was, these products didn't always mesh together well.

Now that we're living in a world of increased collaboration and integration, these vendors are being asked, or might I say more directly, forced by customers to come to market with a much more integrated approach. And, it seems that they're responding.

But if these large IT vendors thought that simple integration would give them immediate access to the enterprise, they thought wrong. New competitors are starting to appear that didn't exist in the competitive quadrant just a few months ago. EMC, with its recent acquisitions of Documentum, Legato, and VMWare, plus a strategic alliance with Dell, has been getting nice traction in the market with its Information Lifecycle Management offering. A company that was starting to drift has transformed itself from a storage vendor to a solutions company. In fact, EMC just completed its fifth consecutive quarter of double-digit year-over-year revenue growth.

Storage vendors aren't the only ones attempting to build integrated suites. Companies like Symantec and NetIQ are stretching from their security roots, expanding further into storage or systems management. Since December 2003, Symantec has acquired @Stake, Brightmail, Liric Associates, ON Technology, PowerQuest, and TurnTide with the intent to provide an integrated suite of products that addresses and maps to the above-mentioned concerns of the business-technology buyer.

So the race is on. Will integrated servicesuite solutions solve complex business-technology objectives? If the vendors can deliver on what they promise, customers can eliminate a significant layer of complexity from their organizations.

Michael Friedenberg, Publisher

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