In a move that reflects an industrywide focus on improving day-to-day IT operations, IBM is developing a systems management product line designed to make companies' technology staffs more effective.
The company announced Monday that by the fourth quarter of this year it will introduce additions to its Tivoli product line for better tracking changes made to business applications. Tivoli products are aimed at making business applications less prone to glitches and easier to administer.
Industry analysts and company executives regularly point to the high cost of maintenance as a problem for the software industry. Analysts say that about 70 percent of IT budgets are earmarked for keeping systems up and running, rather than building new applications.
The majority of application failures are due to changes that get introduced to a working system, said Bob Madey, vice president of strategy and business development for Tivoli. Changing the configuration of a server, for example, could cause an error that slows overall application performance.
The basis for IBM's products is database and workflow software that keeps track of changes made to a system and communicates tasks to IT personnel. For example, the Tivoli Change and Configuration Management Database can store a schedule on when security patches need to be sent out and alert IT administrators when a change is made.
"It's not about building better monitors or software distribution applications," Madey said. "The benefits are not going to come in task-level automation. It's more about organizational productivity."
Madey said that many IT organizations need to foster better communication among individual administrators to cut down on maintenance costs. That's especially true now because applications are getting increasingly complicated and can involve several different components on multiple machines, he said.
IBM's change management product, which is built on Tivoli, DB2 database and WebSphere workflow software, will be available in limited scope this summer and generally available in the fourth quarter of this year.
The company also released a set of recommendations, garnered from consulting engagements, on how companies can best run certain IT processes, such as deploying a new distributed application to a company network.
IBM's competitors in the field of change and configuration management include BMC's Remedy product, Peregrine, Hewlett-Packard's OpenView and Computer Associates International, according to Madey.