This eWEEK: May 12, 2003

Gibson: Its Darwin architecture hints at HP's threats from higher and lower forms of IT life.

How would you like to have an adaptive enterprise? Hewlett-Packard is betting that most customers will choose the obvious reply and answer yes. There is a dark side to the HP message, though, embodied in its choice of the name, Darwin Reference Architecture, for its framework for creating business-process-oriented IT. Adaptation was, of course, critical to Darwins theory of evolution; species that failed to adapt became extinct. HP Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina should know something about it, since the threat of mutual extinction drove last year.

From a Darwinian viewpoint, the new HP is threatened by hostile life forms both higher and lower on the food chain. Above, there is IBM, flexing its IBM Global Services muscle with the addition of PwC Consulting, not to mention a full line of enterprise products, a development environment, collaboration software and management software. From below lurks Dell, which gobbles up everything that falls into the pit of commoditization.

Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett said HP and IBM are the only two vendors that present a credible "organic IT" vision. What DNA does HP have that will give it an edge in the struggle for existence? "We think HP has a slight lead because of the Utility Data Center and storage virtualization," said Gillett, in Cambridge, Mass.

A year into its acquisition of Compaq, HP still has plenty of work to do to ensure its existence, but simply making it this far is a bit of a victory. IT buyers should welcome two generally comparable competitors for their enterprise business. Most markets flourish with, and indeed require, two competitors; dont look for either to become extinct any time soon, unless one of them does something crazy, like acquire Sun, as per last weeks rumor mill.

Most businesses have found that a CRM package is critical to their survival. Thus, John Tascheks takes on the quality of essential reading. The ability to integrate was his focal point, and NetLedgers NetSuite 8.6 emerged in a class by itself. Microsoft continues to bet in its MS-CRM product that interoperability is overrated, gaining a "poor" rating from John in that category, although doing well otherwise. Johns Scaling IT column might be renamed this week "Scalding IT," thanks to his remarks about the mismanagement of many CIOs in CRM implementations. See if hes writing about any CIOs you happen to know.

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