In spite of its reputation as the creator of the open systems management framework, and its much publicized $743m take-over by IBM in 1996, Tivoli remains something of an enigma. Its products are complicated and little understood, its sales story too complex to be compressed into a soundbite. Tivoli rarely advertises and some executives confess to liking the label ‘arrogant’. One even claims to vet customers to ensure that they are capable of implementing the software they are buying. In spite of all this, Tivoli is widely acknowledged as one of only two or three suppliers that is capable of supplying a genuine, leading edge, enterprise wide systems management platform. The Tivoli Management Environment (TME 10) is not used by many customers – they number a couple of hundred – but they are all blue chip organizations that spend a lot of money on getting it right. When Tivoli announces a win, it is with very large, global organizations, says Mark McClain, Tivoli’s director of enterprise marketing. Tivoli has always been a company with a vision – to deliver software that makes large, complex networks manageable. Living breathing animal Our task, Frank Moss, the company’s founder and chief executive once said, is to tame a living, breathing animal. In order to do this, Moss and a group of colleagues decided, back in 1989, that the only way to achieve the necessary integration between the various systems management functions was to use object technology. TME sets up an object for every resource, user, and piece of software in a network. Administrators then manage objects through a drag and drop interface, and these objects then manage the system. One big animal which did not succumb to the vision then was IBM – the company which Moss left and rejoined in 1996 as a multi- millionaire. In the intervening years, Tivoli raised venture capital, built up its TME framework, and, with competitors failing, became established as the leading vendor of systems management frameworks in open, client/server environments. When Tivoli went public in 1995, its last reported annual revenues were $22m; a year later, when IBM bought it, revenues had more than doubled to $50m. Today, a year and a half after the IBM take-over, Tivoli’s position in systems management is stronger and more entrenched than it was, but also less admired and less clear cut. In 1993 it was a pure framework supplier: third-party suppliers developed their software to interoperate seamlessly with the Tivoli architecture. Now, it is a little more complex. First, Tivoli is struggling with the somewhat messy task of incorporating IBM’s systems management products into its architecture: these are of varying age and sophistication and are largely mainframe oriented. Second, Tivoli’s main competitor, CA, is achieving substantial sales with its Unicenter suite of products, which while arguably less sophisticated, are easier and cheaper to implement. With rivals CA and HP, among others, now investing heavily in new technology and intensive marketing, Tivoli will have to come down from its pedestal and fight harder for business.
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