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Tivoli struggles for spotlight

Despite customer wins and partnerships with both Sun and Compaq, Tivoli maintains that it has been losing the visibility battle to CA.

IBM subsidiary Tivoli Systems is having a hard time returning every volley from enterprise management software competitor Computer Associates.

The management software arm of IBM introduced a variety of customer wins as well as advancements in partnerships with both Sun Microsystems and Compaq Computer at its annual user conference this week, but executives maintain that they have been losing the visibility battle to CA. Now they are out to change that.

"We know we're up against a phenomenally good marketing machine," said Mark McClain, vice president of marketing strategy and communications at Tivoli. "They've done some things well recently that we've always done well."

Though now part of the monolith known as Big Blue, Tivoli first got noticed as a high-flying start-up before IBM plucked the emerging network and systems management software player for $750 million in 1996. With IBM's muscle, Tivoli can now directly compete with CA, a company that has stepped up its efforts to claim its Unicenter software as a "de facto standard" in the enterprise management arena.

The battle has been shrill at times. Tivoli questioned the veracity of some statements made by CA executives concerning its partnership with Microsoft at last month's giant CA World '98 conference, replete with an appearance from CEO Bill Gates himself.

McClain admits that CA has been winning the marketing game. "Frankly, we took our eye off the ball," he said. "We just need to be explicit in articulating our vision."

As part of that effort, Tivoli has rolled out several customers as evidence of the company's progress, taking a page from the CA play book. Included in announcements are large companies like Perot Systems and Tropicana North America.

One barrier Tivoli faces is that its gains in revenue are part of Big Blue's gains, and those numbers remain an internal secret. Meanwhile, CA claims $1 billion in business for its Unicenter platform. "Yes, it does hurt us," McClain admitted.

After a busy spring, Tivoli is set to announce some of the fruits of IBM's acquisition of help desk software specialist Software Artistry in mid to late summer. As part of the acquired technology Tivoli will roll out a series of intelligent "agents" as part of a decision support strategy by the company.

That work follows advancements in Tivoli's relationships with Compaq and Sun. The PC giant has committed to joint marketing and development with Tivoli while Sun will submit more of its own network management software offerings for certification so they can be plugged into Tivoli's flagship TME 10 software framework.

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