BMC Abandons Storage Management

Users feel jilted as they question their next move

Some people still believe in the golden dream of romance. Meet a prospective spouse, fall madly in love, then, with the support of her rich father, host a Big Fat [insert ethnic group here] Wedding, and live happily ever after.

Others, who are perhaps a bit disillusioned with the romantic approach, seek a partner with fundamental compatibility characteristics: basic communications skills, presentable appearance and table manners, reasonable smarts combined with a down-to-earth practicality, and room for non-disruptive change and growth.

When such a partner is identified, it’s off to Vegas (or the nearest justice of the peace) to tie the knot. No pomp and circumstance, just a gritty acknowledgement of the fact that over 50 percent of marriages fail, and an earnest promise to do whatever can be done to ensure that this one doesn’t.

This metaphor to the realm of storage technology occurred to me this week … twice, in fact. First, I received a number of phone calls and e-mails from BMC Software users who were dismayed by the sudden, unexpected decision on the part of the company to close down its storage management business unit and abandon its Patrol Storage Manager (PSM) product. They were not consoled by the vendor's promise to continue support for the product for another two years. To put it bluntly, they felt jilted. Here’s a sample from a user who preferred to remain anonymous in this column.

“I'm the fellow that spoke to you earlier today regarding BMC's decision tofold its Storage Management division and PSM product. Please do not quote me directly (not your style anyway). The message I hope BMC gets is that despite promises to support the current release, the announcement tarnishes their credibility in Enterprise Systems Management and has, at minimum, knee capped some of the short term tactical plans their customers had for deploying their technology for real ROI. Doesn't change our Enterprise Storage Management strategy, but certainly changes the road map.”

Torturing the marital metaphor further, the reader’s initial shock over the BMC move was soon converted into healthy anger, then introspection—what I am told is the typical and healthy chain of events that follows any divorce. The reader called me to say that his lawyers were considering legal remedies for BMC’s bailout, then he sent me this e-mail:

“I am not sure that we or other customers agree that this is a smart move for BMC. I think the ones that bought in did so for 'strategic' reasons. If they didn't understand that it was a product in development and that there were going to be growing pains, they were naïve. Now that BMC is bailing on them, they lose credibility for a lot more than just Storage Management Software.

“Another suffocating factor was that this product was always in transition. They acquired a predecessor product from B&B three years ago and almost immediately announced that the product was going to be re-written in Patrol. So the tire kickers waited. When Version 1 came out, missing most of the device Knowledge Modules (KMs) that were needed for the SAN management component, it was a dog. BMC promised V2 was going to be much better and new device KMs were being announced every couple of months. The tire kickers waited. V2 came out, still had problems and limitations, but was much better. The tire kickers started taking more serious interest. Now V2.2 is out, BMC was working on Automated Storage Provisioning, which in my view at least, starts to complete all of the components needed for the that holy grail "Storage Utility". Other vendors offering Storage Management solutions appeared to be saying ‘me too’ to BMC's leadership. With the tire kickers finally getting ready to commit and much of the world only now coming to terms with SAN, NAS and storage consolidation strategies, maybe they bailed a little to soon.

“Couple the above with the fact that BMC was the only one that was providing these solutions as a part of a larger systems management infrastructure, this is a real set back for the whole discipline of Storage Management. With BMC out of the picture, as you so correctly point out, there is no incentive for disk vendors to provide storage management solutions, they would rather sell disk. Leaves me wondering if I should find a new line of work.” In the final analysis, the breakup between BMC and its customers over storage may have ramifications for the vendor’s other relationships as well. My partner in Sao Paulo, Brazil, told me that he was in a meeting with one of his clients working on data center consolidation when the local BMC representative began presenting some mainframe products for consideration in the project. The BMC rep hadn’t gotten the news about the closure of the storage management business unit, and my partner asked him, “How can we believe that your products will still be available to us a year from now?”

The fellow was taken aback by the question, then totally embarrassed when he was informed about his company’s recent decision. Oscar says that the rep visibly squirmed in his chair, trying to find a way around the objection. Elsewhere, my partner in Paris informed me that two of the three big name integrators bidding on the lucrative EDF/Gaz de France contract—providing three Petabytes of managed storage to the French utility company over the next couple of years—are scrambling around in search of a storage management software component. Both bids proposed BMC Software’s PSM product as an integral part of their solution.

Suffice it to say, BMC has a tough road ahead to re-build the confidence of its customer base. Like a runaway bride, its reputation will doubtless precede it into other proposed customer-vendor engagements.

In the case of current customers of BMC’s PSM product, like jilted spouses, they will likely go on believing that all vendors are untrustworthy and that all relationships with vendors have better odds of failing than of succeeding. Many will adopt a real politick view of the vendor community. They will view every new vendor engagement with an exit strategy in mind.

Perhaps that is what they should have been doing all the time. BMC may, in the long run, have done us all a favor.

About the Author

Jon William Toigo is chairman of The Data Management Institute, the CEO of data management consulting and research firm Toigo Partners International, as well as a contributing editor to Enterprise Systems and its Storage Strategies columnist. Mr. Toigo is the author of 14 books, including Disaster Recovery Planning, 3rd Edition, and The Holy Grail of Network Storage Management, both from Prentice Hall.