HP Steps Up Exchange Initiatives

In the world of planning and deployment services for Microsoft Corp.’s Exchange Server messaging product, Compaq/Digital Equipment Corp. has long been an acknowledged leader. In May Hewlett-Packard Co. announced its initial foray into this Exchange Services arena, introducing a set of global initiatives to promote Exchange- and Windows NT-based solutions used in conjunction with HP hardware and consulting services.

Now with the introduction of an Exchange-specific management solution that plugs into HP’s existing OpenView environment, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor is hoping to leverage its traditional position as a major system and network management vendor to provide it with a much-needed boost in the competitive Exchange services arena.

Scott Fulton, product manager with HP’s OpenView business unit, sees the launch of the HP OpenView ManageX Smart Plug-In for Microsoft Exchange as part-and-parcel of his company’s ramp-up effort in the Exchange arena. HP acquired NuView ManageX from NuView Inc. (Houston) in November 1997. With this announcement, ManageX was architected to plug into the HP OpenView environment. "This is part of HP’s broader messaging practice and strategy with Microsoft, which we initially announced in May," Fulton says. "We now have a dedicated sales force surrounding Exchange on the direct sales side, we have about 200 Exchange technical consultants, we have competency centers in the U.K., France and starting in the U.S. and Asia."

Back in May, many analysts suggested that HP had a hard road ahead of it if it was ever to effectively cut into Compaq/Digital’s dominance in the Exchange arena. "They're a year late to this market at a minimum, and they're just getting into it now; it'll take them 9 months [to ramp up]," said Tim Sloane, director of messaging applications research with Boston-based consultancy the Aberdeen Group, at the time of HP’s original Exchange initiative announcement.

HP hopes to make up lost ground using the management functionality provided by its OpenView network management product and newly acquired ManageX Windows NT system management product to increase the operational efficiency of Microsoft Exchange e-mail systems. The new HP Smart Plug-In for Microsoft Exchange can assess the performance of Exchange services as well as monitor event logs and performance counters to identify and isolate problems before they affect the end user. The Smart Plug-In for Microsoft Exchange can monitor approximately 70 Windows NT and Microsoft Exchange performance metrics.

"The key here is really to monitor Exchange from a service perspective," HP’s Fulton indicates. "[The Smart Plug-In offers] proactive monitoring, so we’re looking at the Windows NT event log and forwarding all of the Exchange-related messages to the ManageX message browser."

According to HP’s Fulton, one of the Smart Plug-In’s most valuable features is its ability to provide service-level management (SLM) functionality for the Exchange platform. SLM software helps IT organizations make good on the stipulations of service-level agreements, which are guidelines devised by IT to establish acceptable user response times for specific applications, define a realistic recovery window for the resolution of application or service problems, and create a delegation of authority so that individual IT staff members can take ownership of problems as they occur.

"In Exchange environments, service-level management is a critical differentiator because in the enterprise space, there are clear scalability issues [with large deployments of any messaging solution]," Fulton acknowledges. "Service-level management helps to identify them, and to better prepare for the capacity increase that enterprises are planning."