Asia poised for service management growth

While slower than its Western counterparts in adopting IT service management, Asia has the advantage to leapfrog past a generation of mistakes, says IBM.

PHUKET--IT service management (ITSM) will become an essential part of the business as companies increasingly integrate technology with their mission-critical processes, say industry experts. Asia, too, is seeing high growth in this discipline.

The role of effective service management and the value it brings to a business is undeniable, according to industry observers at the Asia-Pacific IBM IT Service Management Summit held here this week.

Milind Govekar, vice president and research director at Gartner, pointed out that IT operations account for about 70 percent of an organization's IT budget, and "anything that you can do to manage that budget effectively is a big, big plus".

Govekar noted that it is no longer enough for IT folks to ensure operations are running and costs are kept low. The IT department has "to be an informed procurer of IT solutions", he said.

Aidan Lawes, CEO of IT Service Management Forum (itSMF), added that "service management is no longer optional".

He noted that the evolving role of IT in the business also means that organizations need to focus less on technology, and more on services--or what he refers to as IS (information services).

This represents a shift in focus away from cost of infrastructure components, to the value of a service that is being provided, as well as processes and human resources that determine the quality of service delivery.

Asia poised for growth
Al Zollar, IBM's Tivoli software general manager, noted that ITSM in general has been growing in adoption. Early adopters had first emerged in the United Kingdom, where the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) was created, and then Europe and the Americas.

"What I think I'm seeing in Asia that's different from the rest of the world is the rate of adoption," said Zollar. "Even though it's come a bit later than the U.K. and Europe, [adoption in Asia] seems to be more intense."

"In China [for example], half the audience that I spoke to expressed interest in or have begun active projects around ITIL--an incredible level of interest, larger than I expected, honestly," he revealed.

According Maarten Koster, Asia-pacific Tivoli director at IBM, the Tivoli software market in the region is growing rapidly, as evident from new business gains. In 2005, net new business, excluding mainframe applications, grew at 30 percent and the growth continued into the first quarter of 2006, reaching 40 percent, he said.

In Asia, there is "an enormous appetite" to learn about best practices, said Koster. He added that companies in this region have significant advantage since they can avoid mistakes made in the past and adopt best practices that have already been developed in Europe and the United States.

Koster explained: "[One of] ITSM offerings...what we call process managers...These are pre-built workflows that take the best practices as described in ITIL." These components are built into the work flow and the technology is "ready-to-implement" for the customer, he added. "We believe that is going to be a big hit in Asia [because] that's what our customers are asking for--they don't want to reinvent the wheel."

According to Zollar, IBM is expected to invest over US$1 billion globally over the next two years on improving the ITSM product portfolio and go-to-market strategies.

The IT vendor defined its ITSM vision last May, and since then has made progress in following up on its roadmap, he said, noting that service-oriented architecture (SOA)--based on "an open approach"--sits at the core of the company's ITSM strategy.

"But we've gone further than that," he said "We've done things ranging from being the only provider to donate a million lines of source code, to [initiatives such as the] Aperi project, which creates an open-source reference model for storage management. [This aims to drive] industry standards like the Web services distributed management standard, which is an SOA Web services discovery mechanism."

Key to plugging IBM's gaps in ITSM is its five acquisitions made after it first unveiled its strategy. Zollar noted that among these acquisitions, the most significant is Micromuse.

IBM this week unveiled a new security offering under its ITSM portfolio that automates security data collection and analysis across an organization's IT infrastructure. The Tivoli Security Operations Manager is IBM's first integrated product following the Micromuse acquisition, which was completed in February this year. The new product taps user account and access information from existing products Tivoli Identity Manager and Tivoli Access Manager, to enforce security policies and snuff out insider threat.

ZDNet Asia's Vivian Yeo reported from Phuket, Thailand.