IBM and Tivoli 10 Years Later: A Match Made in Heaven?

Q&A: Tivoli General Manager Al Zollar discusses the ups and downs of the past and the challenges that lie ahead for IBM's management software unit.

IBM late last week quietly celebrated the 10th anniversary of its acquisition of Tivoli Systems, marking a 10-year roller coaster ride in the network and systems management market.

Although IBM in the early years made significant profit on its $743 million acquisition, it struggled with internal integration headaches along with even bigger customer integration headaches that caused deployments to stretch for as long as 24 months.

After the dust settled in the enterprise management framework wars between Tivoli and large competitors such as Hewlett Packards OpenView and CAs Unicenter, the word "framework" was dropped from everyones vocabulary.

And customers turned to simpler point tools to solve the most pressing problems. But, after being missing in action from any IBM growth trajectory, Tivoli has come back in the past couple of years to post solid double-digit growth (15 percent last year), take the drivers seat in IBMs autonomic computing initiative and execute on a series of acquisitions, including the most recent acquisition of MicroMuse and its NetCool network management software.

Senior Editor Paula Musich talked on April 4 with Tivoli General Manager Al Zollar about the ups and downs, and the challenges ahead, for IBMs management software unit.

/zimages/7/28571.gifIBMs Tivoli simplifies systems management for SMBs. Click here to read more.

Tivoli and IBM together have had a bit of a checkered past. At one time it was the darling of IBMs software portfolio, and at other times it has been a big black eye for the company. What lessons did IBM learn from the lean Tivoli years?

The biggest lesson we learned is that quality matters in enterprise software. The quality of the functionality [then] was not what it needed to be. The technology was in transition. When we had a team pinned down fixing quality problems it was hard for them to transition to Web [technologies] and J2EE [Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition] and now SOA [service-oriented architecture] architectures. It made it hard for the team to evolve to those things while they were focused on fixing quality and consumability. If you miss a beat it can hurt you for a number of years.

After the bruising that all the framework providers took, everyone stopped using the word framework or platform. But how much of that technology is still used in the products that IBM sells today?

They are used quite extensively. For those customers who made early investments in our products, our job was to help them get value out of them. We continue to support those customers. Of course, were now presenting them with alternatives that represent upgrade paths to high quality. Tivoli Monitoring Version 6, which started shipping in the fourth quarter of last year, offers a nice automated upgrade path for customers who used the distributed framework monitoring product.

That gives them an end-to-end monitoring product [that spans from the mainframe] zSeries to Windows, Linux and Unix with a consistent set of visualization and policies. It is a journey our customers will be on and we need to make each step an easy and logical step to take.

It used to be said that for every dollar spent on a license, another $3 or $4 was spent on services. Is that ratio still accurate today?

It depends on what industry reports youre reading. Some will go higher. Enterprise software in general, when youre dealing with the issue of complexity of composite applications, most large enterprise customers have a minimum of 500 Web tier applications, with some as many as 2000. Integrating any software into that environment requires know-how. It is not shrink wrap territory. For the know-how associated with bringing to life the capabilities of Tivoli products, we work hand-in-glove with [IBMs] Global Services and industry partners.

Next Page: What does the future hold for Tivoli?