big four systems managementNimsoft and Groundwork Open Source are strikingly different companies. And they rarely run into each other in competitive settings. Now here's the irony: Both companies claim they are displacing BMC, CA, HP Openview and IBM Tivoli in some enterprise accounts. And yes, there's a managed services hook here. Let me explain.

First, let's look at some of the latest claims.

Check Nimsoft CEO Gary Read's personal blog and you'll see a laundry list of recent corporate victories. Some major customers he mentions by name; others he mentions using generic Global 2000 terms.

Read's latest statement describes a major financial institution replacing IBM Tivoli with Nimsoft Monitoring Solution. Rewind a few days and Read wrote about displacing high-end solutions as well as open source offerings like Nagios.

Different Approach

Meanwhile, Groundwork Open Source continues to position itself as a "scalable, cost-effective alternative to HP OpenView, BMC, IBM Tivoli, CA Unicenter." Groundwork says its customer base grew 105 percent in 2009. Nearly 40 percent of the time, Groundwork's customer engagements involved Big 4 competitive showdowns, according to VP of Marketing Tara Spalding.

Now, the twist: Even as they chip away at the Big 4, Nimsoft rarely sees Groundwork in the market, and Groundwork rarely sees Nimsoft. The systems management market remains massive. And the Big 4 seem to be under attack on multiple fronts.

Of course, I don't want to over-dramatize the situation. The Big 4 has a massive installed base and plenty of loyal customers. And the Big 4 is trying to change for the times -- as BMC introduces a Remedy SaaS version and IBM introduces Tivoli Live.

Still, Nimsoft and Groundwork Open Source claim to be picking off Big 4 customers, each in their own way.

MSP Angle

This is more than a corporate IT management story. Gradually, it will become more and more of a managed services story.

In addition to its enterprise focus, Nimsoft has been reaching out to higher-end MSPs. The effort includes a relatively recent relationship with Ingram Micro Seismic. And Nimsoft has hired managed services veterans from CDW (Phil LaForge) and Dell (Todd McKendrick) to help drive sales and MSP education.

Meanwhile, Groundwork has a budding channel program. And it's safe to expect Groundwork to accelerate those partner efforts in 2010. In particular, watch Groundwork's relationship with Novell. Their joint work allows VARs to quickly deploy Groundwork's monitoring application on SUSE Studio appliances. Most of my sources say SUSE Studio has been a hit with ISVs and resellers.

Like I said, Nimsoft and Groundwork seem to be serving different market segments. But they have a common enemy: The Big 4 of systems management.