Hewlett-Packard Corp. announced a service-oriented architecture (SOA) strategy this week that plays to its unique strengths in providing products for governance, quality and management, along with platform agnostic consulting services, analysts say.
HP executives stressed their agnostic approach to SOA, which allows the company's products and consultants to work in both the Java and .NET worlds. It is an approach to the heterogeneity of SOA that several analysts say is unique among the major vendors including, IBM, Oracle Corp., BEA Systems Inc., SAP AG, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Microsoft. All of those companies have major investments in development platforms.
In a Web conference announcing the strategy, Tom Hogan, senior vice president HP Software, championed his company's agnosticism.
"We think other vendors that play in the space have a bias to either a dev stack or an integration technology or an app portfolio," he said. "We think the key to nailing SOA is to be the poster child of heterogeneity, which is what HP is all about."
As unveiled this week, the HP SOA strategy focuses on a combination of products integrating HP OpenView integrated with the technology acquired from Mercury/Systinet to provide governance, quality and management, along with services and education. With a strong and historic reputation in testing, quality control and consulting services, this strategy plays to HP's strengths, said Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst with ZapThink LLC.
"Consulting has always been a strength for HP and they have a lot of experience," Schmelzer said. "They've been doing things both on the Java side and the .NET side. HP has a very robust .NET practice, as well as on the SAP and Java side. That is unique. IBM is not really going to offer companies .NET consulting. People mistakenly think of HP as being in the Java camp, but they are much more heterogeneous. They support .NET and Java equally."
Dana Gardner, principal analyst of Interarbor Solutions LLC., agreed that runtime management across heterogeneous platforms could be a plus for HP.
"They said there is also a benefit of being neutral," Gardner said. "While on the one hand they've said they have strengths in software, we also recognize that SOA is by definition heterogeneous, that there are going to be widely differing sets of products in place at different accounts and different enterprises that they'd like to support and manage and help with their professional services."
Schmelzer applauded HP's plan to focus its consultancy on creating SOA centers of excellence within organizations seeking to adopt the architecture, which is in line with the ZapThink position that IT cannot implement SOA simply by buying tools.
"What they're acknowledging is that the technology part can only help companies so much in their drive to adopt service-oriented architecture," Schmelzer said. "If you give someone a bunch of technology and say, 'Go build SOA,' the rate of success is not that high. HP is not offering an implementation. They are saying, 'We're going to help you set up an organizational structure that helps you build your own services.' It's a mentorship. It's helping companies establish a real enterprise architecture group."
In this sense, Schmelzer said criticism from other vendors that HP is hampered by not having SOA developer tools misses the point.
"I don't see that as a negative," Schmelzer said. "Why should HP get into the development picture? They don't have a runtime environment. They don't have integration middleware. They don't have a programming language or a development environment. If you're HP you don't care about what runtime environment customers are using. In the context of HP not having development tools is very consistent. If they had something it would actually be very inconsistent. It would be inconsistent for HP to prefer one development environment over another."
The software for governance, quality and management finally provided analysts with a view of how HP has integrated the technology it acquired with Mercury, which had previously acquired Systinet, which had been a pioneer in the SOA registry/repository space.
Avrami Tzur, vice president for SOA at HP, summarized the integration in the Web conference.
"Mercury acquired Systinet and that's a crucial part of what we see needed in the market today," Tzur said. "Our SOA governance solution is the Systinet solution. So that's the first element. Second, you hear us talking about quality and the importance of quality. The whole portfolio of quality products came from the Mercury acquisition. We extended that portfolio to provide SOA capabilities and Web services capabilities. Lastly, through the integration with Mercury and HP OpenView, we now have a comprehensive solution on SOA management that includes everything from monitoring the services from end user experience to identifying problems at the infrastructure level or network level. So overall it is the elements that came from Mercury and Systinet, but also elements that came from OpenView."
Anne Thomas Manes, research director at Burton Group Inc., said that while the integration of OpenView with the Mercury/Systinet technology was not discussed in specific detail this week "HP has aggressive plans to execute the integration."
"It plans to integrate the products reasonably quickly and in the future you won't be able to say that this product is OpenView while that other one is Mercury," she said.
Manes said HP is now packaging its SOA Manager with what was formerly the Systinet2 repository into its new SOA Center product. This appears to be more of a branding issue than a technology one as she said "these systems were reasonably well integrated before."
In terms of technology in HP's announcement this week, Tony Baer, principal, onStrategies, said the attempt to bridge the gap between systems management and SOA stood out among the re-packaged technology.
"Probably the highlight is that the old Mercury Business Availability Center product, which provided Mercury's view of application management, has added an SOA management component," Baer said. "It has linked in some functionality that had been part of the old OpenView Application Management tool, which marks one of the first attempts to bridge the systems management and SOA worlds."
Baer said this is important because systems management is key to providing acceptable SOA service levels.
Now that HP has placed its bets on a trifecta of platform agnostic governance, quality and management products, only time will tell if it's a winning bet, said Gardner.
"SOA by no means is so mature that we can say here's the set that will win or here's the approach that's going to win," he said. "There is more than one way to skin the SOA cat and HP is saying, we think we can do it our way pretty well."