Today’s Wall Street Journal has a great story on HP’s efforts to shrink the size and cost of their IT infrastucture. “Taming Technology Sprawl” (subscription required) details some of the issues the tech giant faced trying to slim down a tech infrastructure swollen by multiple acquisitions and overlapping IT staffs.
“Since July 2005, the Palo Alto, Calif., firm has been in a project to cut the number of computer programs it uses by more than half, and reduce the number of its data centers — where large computers run programs that support H-P’s businesses — to six from 85.”
The cost is significant. “H-P spent $4.2 billion — about 5% of 2005 revenue — to maintain its IT systems” and aims to drop that to 2% of revenue and shed half of the 19,000 person staff.A key problem? Too many software programs.
“Abour eight months after launching the overhaul in mid-2005, H-P’s new Chief Information Officer Randy Mott unexpectedly hit a hurdle. According to a February 2006 survey, H-P employees depended on about 6,000 computer programs — nearly double what Mr. Mott had expected. By then, he was months into the project and had allocated money and staff based on earlier assumptions. “I was blindsided,” says Mr. Mott, who formerly worked at Dell Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.”
The story goes on to describe other issues, including how CIO Mott had to battle VPs who were loath to give up their departmental computing resources. But I kept thinking about how difficult it is to really keep track of what software programs are in use within an organization, and how many of those might be open-source or otherwise untraceable through conventional license tracking. Then I spotted a mention of Matt Asay’s News.com blog item on the story behind HP’s FOSSology open-source tools. Asay quotes HP’s Christine Marino, VP of Linux and open source, on the creation of an open source tool for open source governance.
Free and open-source software is everywhere. It’s not just Linux (not that Linux is just one thing, anyway). At HP we’ve been using free and open-source software throughout our company for years as a consumer and contributor of free and open-source software.Many years ago we realized that we needed some processes around our adoption of open source. We were very clear that we wanted to take advantage of FOSS (free and open-source software) but also that we needed to manage our use of it. Our processes have grown and evolved over the years, and we’ve written software to assist with these processes.About 18 months ago during our open-source customer councils we talked about the tools that we had built internally and there was almost a rush to the doors, with our customers clamoring for these kinds of tools to help them manage their open-source adoption. So, really, it was our customers asking for our assistance in managing their open-source software that was the impetus for our open-sourcing our framework today.
Martino goes on to say that HP considered creating a proprietary product but chose to stay with open source tools because “there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to FOSS governance.” She does not mention CIO Mott, but I can well believe FOSS tracking tools got a big boost internally when the IT cost reduction project arrived.All of this makes me wonder if there are open source tools for managing both FOSS and proprietary software governance? Does open source have a role to play in IT mangement of both types? Post your comments on this issue below.