The days of referring to the leading management software vendors as the "big four" are numbered, industry watchers predict, as challengers to BMC, CA, HP and IBM now include a variety of competitors, ranging from starts-up to software giants such as Microsoft and Oracle.
Forrester Research recently released a paper that advised IT executives on optimising their current IT management software portfolio. While a majority of companies have multiple management products in house, at least one of four names is likely to dominate customer portfolios: HP, IBM, CA and BMC. Forrester advises CIOs and IT managers to employ a management strategy that would designate one vendor as an "anchor" and then fill technology gaps with others. HP and IBM would be likely anchors, but the report contends that BMC and CA might not be able to fill that role going forward.
Glenn O'Donnell, a senior analyst with the firm, says in the report: "HP and IBM are so massive that they will likely survive an assault on their business, but BMC and CA are the smallest mega-vendors and are therefore a bit more vulnerable to business fluctuations and acquisitions".
BMC and CA don't have the hardware or services business that HP (more so now with its EDS acquisition) -- and IBM do.
"Oracle, the formidable wild card, is a minor management vendor now, but it will acquire leadership in its typical bold manner. Either BMC or CA is the likely prey," O'Donnell says. "Oracle must become a significant leader in management, as this business represents a key element of its overall business automation strategy."
Microsoft has been a strong contender in managing its own environment, but recent technology developments such as virtualisation and upgrades to its Systems Center package are broadening its heterogeneous management and operational automation products.
"With its competition migrating away from the Linux/Java world and toward Google, we expect Microsoft to keep momentum moving toward heterogeneous environments," O'Donnell says. 'It will be a solid anchor and also a stronger force in the whole IT automation movement. Whichever is not consumed by Oracle will be fodder for Microsoft's ambitions."
CA, in particular, would be an attractive acquisition for the two software makers. Recent technology developments and dedication to building its customer base has the vendor making points with the analyst community and earning respectable customer satisfaction reviews.
"[CA] is somewhat a stepchild to the IT management space — since their leadership changed they have done a lot to improve their image," says Evelyn Hubbert, a senior analyst at Forrester. "But it would not be a bad thing for them to be acquired by Oracle. This would give CA the exposure it needs," Hubbert says.