New HP service desk marks 'decision point'

Enterprise customers in the Asia-Pacific region may be forced to rethink their commitment to HP as the company revises its service desk product strategy

HP's revised service desk product strategy represents a "major decision point" for many customers in the Asia-Pacific region, according to an analyst.

HP's software business group on Monday announced several updates to its IT management product portfolio, including major software updates and new services acquired from its Mercury and Peregrine acquisitions. The revisions include new versions of HP Quality Center, LoadRunner, Change Control Management and Configuration Management, designed to automate Windows Vista deployments in an enterprise environment.

According to Darryl Dickens, head of marketing for HP Software in Asia-Pacific and Japan, the updates span quality and service management as well as further integration across its software product line.

In an interview, Michael Warrilow, director of Sydney-based analyst company Hydrasight, said HP Software's revised product strategy means the majority of its service desk customers in the Asia-Pacific region may need to review their strategic positioning and, potentially, their commitment to HP.

This is necessary because HP's new service desk features are based primarily on technology the company acquired from Peregrine's ServiceCenter offering, which has an "almost zero percent" share of the Asia-Pacific service management software market, Warrilow said.

In comparison, HP's own Service Desk product has a market share of about 20 percent, he said. "So, one in five enterprise customers in Asia are now forced to make a [switch]," Warrilow said.

"They have no choice… They have to either move to the new Peregrine platform, or go for something else [in the market]," he said.

Dickens, however, noted that HP's new service desk features such as the service catalogue and request module, which sets up and supports IT services, can be integrated into HP Service Desk deployments. "That's a big part of the overall roadmap, it's giving something to a very important Service Desk installed base," he said. "It gives you the ability to upsize the capability of your existing investments."

In the next 12 to 30 months, however, Warrilow said HP customers have no choice but to upgrade to ServiceCenter because service management software often requires extensive customisation to fit a company's needs. With an upgrade, Warrilow said, companies risk losing those customised features.

"You either have to pull out the customisations or find some way to marry them with the new upgrade. In a lot of cases, it's a lot cheaper to go to the competition and start afresh," he explained. The Hydrasight analyst noted that the cost of a service desk upgrade could add up to "hundreds of thousands of dollars" for medium-sized businesses and large enterprises.

Warrilow noted that customers might consider switching to HP Software's rivals such as BMC and CA. He added that IBM's entry into the service desk market, with its acquisition of MRO Software, could also put competitive pressure on HP's software business.

HP Software is well aware of the challenges and is investing in tools and other assistive measures to ease the upgrade challenges, Warrilow said, adding that HP is intending to establish a migration center in China for this purpose.

"Similarly, HP claims that it is endeavouring to minimise the impact on support costs although it admits some clients can expect moderate increases," he said.

Meanwhile, Hydrasight is cautioning IT organisations to ensure other disruptive forces in the service desk market are also considered. In particular, Microsoft's entry will significantly alter the service desk market from next year as "it is Microsoft's intention to become an enterprise-level service desk player", Warrilow said.