Monday, July 23, 2007

HP Buys OpsWare: An Innovator's Dilemma?

Rumors circulating the valley today proved true: HP offered $1.6 billion to acquire OpsWare, a data center automation firm. HP has been quite savvy in acquiring a number of top players (Mercury Interactive, Peregrine Systems) in the automation space, bolstering its standing in the enterprise software area. But I pose the following question: Will HP be successful in making this marriage work?

Here's why: The combination of Mercury (performance management tools, IT governance and more), Peregrine (IT financial management, and more) and Opsware (IT automated provisioning & process automation) make for a powerful set of disruptive technologies -- that disrupt how data centers are "traditionally" monitored and managed. Those entrenched "traditional" products include IBM Tivoli, CA Unicenter, and HP's own OpenView.

Now, following the Innovator's Dilemma theory, posited by Clay Christensen, large companies will be adverse to adopting newer technologies that would naturally erode/cannibalize their existing technologies, ways of doing business, and cash flows.

Yet, here we have an example where OpsWare (at least would have) come gunning at OpenView with a completely new & disruptive approach to managing and monitoring data centers. But now, OpsWare will be part of HP. So, Will HP have the balls to manage OpsWare to its natural disruptive technological end (and probably make a boatload of money), or, will they find that it erodes the OpenView market and becomes a threat to their existing OpenView base?

Part of me says these guys are smart. I would have combined the same types of companies to create a new IT management platform for the future. (Oh - and prediction: watch this space to see who picks up the next set of disruptive companies like Netuitive and Splunk). However, the other part of me says that HP's data center automation message as-of late has been singularly "Blades". This is simplistic, and surely driven by marketing-program-du-jure.

There's on other chink in the execution of this deal: these acquisitions do nothing to advance HP's own hardware business -- and arguably, push hardware down a level towards further commoditization. What effect will this have on HP hardware revenues?

My theory continues to hold that the next real player in the data center management space has to come from an independent, an non-equipment vendor. That leaves BMC, EMC, or CA. These guys are the only ones truly incented to create a revolutionary management platform that's truly platform independent -- and therefore valuable.