HP aims to fill 'gap' with ALM

Previously overlooked within the company, Hewlett-Packard's software business sees renewed significance and greater alignment with its overall business strategy with launch of Application Lifecycle Management 2011 suite, execs say.

BARCELONA--The launch of Hewlett-Packard's Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) 2011 suite not only highlights the growing importance of software within the organization, it also fills a gap that the competition has failed to provide, according to HP executives.

At the company's Software Universe conference here Tuesday, Jonathan Rende, vice president and general manager of applications solutions business for HP's software and solutions division, said this is the first time application delivery is spoken of in "such a big way" by the IT vendor, indicating how business apps are increasingly influencing a company's ability to be agile.

Speaking to ZDNet Asia at the sidelines of the annual software summit, Rende acknowledged that the software division in the past has been undervalued within HP. However, in line with recently-appointed CEO Leo Apotheker's vision that software is a key product differentiator and the glue that links all of the company's business activities, Rende believes his division is now strategically aligned with the IT vendor's overall growth plans.

His comments were made in response to TBR analyst Jessica Breen's observation that HP's software group could do more to boost its 3 percent contribution to the company's overall earnings, as announced by Apotheker last week.

Breen told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview that HP's strengths lie in business intelligence and application management. "HP's software group is just starting to send the message about the importance of ALM. I think we'll see that pushing more sales in the upcoming year," she said.

The analyst noted that the software division has much to do to boost its overall earnings. Describing HP's software offerings as "somewhat disjointed", Breen said the vendor should provide a more cohesive portfolio so its sales team is able to cross-sell products to increase value to customers and drive sales. She added that the company's software tend to be offered at a discount and bundled with its hardware products such as PCs, noting that this dilutes the products' sales value.

Filling an app gap
With the launch of its ALM tool, Rende said HP spent the past 24 months integrating various technologies to create a product designed to plug a specific gap its competitors have failed to fill.

"ALM technology is not new," he said. "Companies such as Borland Software and IBM have marketed it a few years back. However, many business apps are still not delivering the right capabilities to end-users when they need it, which mean that [our competitors] have not been very successful."

He added that customer feedback had indicated that app teams within enterprises were not able to keep up with what requests from business units. The "biggest pressure" faced by developers today is the request for apps to be continually refreshed to reflect up-to-date capabilities, he said, noting that software developers are unable to meet these demands.

This is where the new app management tool, touted by HP to be the "first and only unified system" for apps delivery--from inception to retirement of the software--comes in, said Rende.

Mark Sarbiewski, HP's vice president of application solutions, highlighted two components of the ALM suite which he said would be welcomed by all involved in the app development lifecycle.

First, Requirements Management 2011 will enable business analysts to move away from Microsoft Word into an environment that retains most of the latter's features such as fonts and indentations and, yet, be able to share their findings and reports via ALM in real-time, Sarbiewski said during his presentation at the conference.

"We recognize that most business analysts are comfortable with Word but it's not ideal for their information to be stored away in a silo and inaccessible to the other members involved in the app delivery process," he said.

Second, HP Sprinter will automate some manual testing processes and help ease the load off end-users, he added. The technology, which is in the midst of being patented, will offer users the ability to test up to six different use cases simultaneously as well as "inject" data into specified fields for workflows with a specified template, cutting down the time and costs involved in creating an app, he said.

Building "instant-on enterprise"
The launch of its ALM suite is part of HP's wider "Instant-On Enterprise" business strategy, according to Jan Zadak, senior vice president of enterprise business and managing director of HP EMEA. He said at a media briefing that application transformation, which can be achieved using the ALM tool, is just one component of the vendor's business thrust.

The other four components include converged infrastructure, enterprise security--which has been enhanced with the acquisitions of Arcsight and Fortify earlier this year--information optimization, and the hybrid delivery for apps that straddle between on-premise data center environments as well as public and private cloud deployments, Zadak said.

Kevin Kwang reported from the HP Software Universe conference in Barcelona, Spain.