Q&A: Todd DeLaughter explains his move from HP to Opalis

The former GM of HP's OpenView business unit is now Opalis' CEO and president

Todd DeLaughter became president and CEO of Opalis Software Inc. in Toronto in mid-October after serving as vice president and general manager of Hewlett-Packard Co.'s OpenView business unit, with annual revenues of $1 billion. In a recent interview, he talked about his departure after HP's purchase of Mercury Interactive Corp. for $4.5 billion, as well as Opalis' role as a maker of software for automating IT operational processes.

Excerpt from that interview follow:

How did your move from HP to Opalis go? At HP, we had kind of fulfilled our vision to bring in a core set of capabilities and to stop losing money in the unit. That was accomplished just as the Mercury acquisition was taking place and HP's Tom Hogan [the senior vice president of HP software] merged those two teams and eliminated the GMs over OpenView and Mercury. For the size of the acquisitions, that was the right answer, to get everybody on one page. I very much supported what HP did. I knew Opalis has this hot new category of software called Run Book Automation that automates across distributed systems. Opalis has an out-of-the-box way to link systems together in friendly way, and that's the main driver for me. So I left HP Oct. 6, and started at Opalis Oct. 16.

Why Opalis? I looked at where the trends were and where I thought we were moving. The management software industry does a good job today of providing tools to report IT events as they happen, to monitor activity and tell what's wrong. And to some degree, the software can tie into service levels. What we do a fairly poor job of is automating responses to outages. I saw in Opalis a vision of responding to IT events. And Opalis was doing it in a policy-based way, meaning customers can be flexible with the software. That's powerful.

We were recently at a Gartner Data Center conference where a major issue was around being more responsive to changes. Things are as not as automated as they could be. Say that for any single management vendor or customer environment. Nobody is a single source, and automation has lots of room for improvement. Second, there are still increasing operational costs. They are all people-related costs. The ability to take human management out of IT events is critical for businesses going forward, and to get that money over to the line of business needs.

Opalis has three things. The ability to orchestrate a series of process steps, integrate all management tools involved in process flow and automate actions to allow for a closed loop around IT Infrastructure Library processes or incident management. Based on the nature of events, that means having five or six different systems in an average system and the orchestration of different systems is nearly impossible.

What do you say to IT folks who worry that automation software displaces jobs? Well, the vice president of IT and the CIO each have different agendas. For those in IT operations, we try to get them out of firefighting mode, that reactive mode to problems. If we can take the reactive nature out of that, that's good. We're not about anything like job displacement or putting people out of work. If we can move a company's investment from firefighting of system problems into new investment area that's our key value proposition.

What is new from Opalis? On Dec. 4, we announced a new set of integration pathways to other systems, namely, BMC Remedy, BMC Atrium, Microsoft Active Directory and Microsoft Service Center Operations and VMware VirtualCenter 2. Those five are added to Opalis' existing 22 integration packs for enabling IT operations personnel to connect and interact with a variety of heterogeneous systems management tools. There are also 90 prebuilt process templates for ITIL-based processes and a new graphical user interface to drag and drop objects.

What have you found that Opalis most needs to work on? As Opalis moves from a smaller to larger company, I see it is a product-focused company and a good engineering company making scalable enterprise class software, but less focused on outbound sales and marketing reach and developing partnerships. Our outbound sales force needs to be primed to sell our story. Partnerships will be important for me, and from my OpenView days, I have good connections in the industry. Opalis software could bring value to IBM, HP or Dell where they want to bring automation around how servers get configured in an environment. There's also opportunity to have a relationship with the Big Four management software companies [IBM, HP, BMC Software and CA Inc.]. We provide a complementary set of capabilities. We do actual task automation on the other side of process workflows such as BMC's Remedy. We can also partner with outsourcers such as EDS or Unisys, helping to take costs out of managing a system environment. My effort is for building relationships. Microsoft, Oracle and SAP could also be partners.

Are you living in Toronto yet? I have to move from California to Toronto, and somebody has to teach me how to drive in the snow.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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