BMC Changes Course

Management specialist touts business service management strategy

To many watching BMC Software Inc. over the last few months, the new business service management (BSM) strategy the systems management specialist announced yesterday won't come as much of a surprise.

After all, BMC scored a coup of sorts when it picked up the Remedy assets of financially troubled Peregrine Systems Inc. in September 2002. Remedy was a leading provider of service management software. Last month, BMC purchased ITMasters, a privately held provider of software that allows IT infrastructure components to be visually mapped to business processes.

Yesterday, BMC announced a new strategy as a provider of BSM software solutions. In its simplest sense, BSM describes a management philosophy that seeks to relate IT resources to business processes, such that—for example—if a RAID host bus adapter on a storage subsystem goes down, it’s possible to understand at a glance which business processes (sales and marketing) are affected by the outage.

Jeff Jeffress, director of business development with BMC, says that BSM has a lot to do with making IT more accountable to business, as well as allowing business to better understand the role that IT plays in revenue-generating operations. “I keep hearing from customers who want to know how all of this money they’re spending on IT and all of this technology they’ve developed is supporting any of those business services, and if any of those services are impacted by those IT touch points.”

Currently, BMC’s BSM strategy consists of three components: IT Operations and Infrastructure Management, IT Service and Applications Management, and Service Impact Management.

Of these, the IT Operations and Infrastructure Management component leverages BMC’s existing stable of administrative and monitoring tools to manage heterogeneous systems, databases, applications, storage, and networks. The IT Service and Applications Management component, on the other hand, is largely based on the Remedy assets BMC acquired from Peregrine. It provides service desk, change management, and asset management capabilities to BMC’s overall BSM strategy. Finally, the Service Impact Management component is enabled by means of software called MasterCell that BMC acquired from IT Masters. This last component combines event automation and service modeling capabilities to provide visual information about the status of business services and service level agreements.

BMC’s Jeffress says that his company’s BSM strategy will evolve over the next several years, and that BMC could make a number of supporting announcements in the coming months.

Jeffress stresses that BMC is not positioning its BSM software suite as a rip-and-replace solution, however. In many cases, he says, customers can choose to complement the components with equivalent software products from other vendors that provide the same functionality. “Customers may have other IT infrastructure management pieces already deployed, and we’re going to leverage whatever the customers have in place, because the reality is most of our customers have a great heterogeneity of solutions, and we want to protect their investments not just in software costs but in deployment times that they put in to get those solutions running.”

Evolutionary Trend

According to Richard Ptak, founder and chief analyst of management consultancy Ptak & Associates, most systems management vendors are beginning to rearchitect their flagship product suites to support BSM-like views into business processes. “There’s pretty much a consensus among users and analysts and vendors about what the real problems are, and the various vendors, depending on where their strengths are, have designed different approaches built on what they have or what they have acquired.”

At least two of BMC’s foremost competitors (Computer Associates International Inc. (CA) and IBM Corp.) have announced—and in some cases already delivered—similar initiatives. CA, for example, shipped its BrightStor SAN Manager tool in early January ( Key to the functionality of BrightStor SAN Manager was support for so-called “business process use” that allowed IT resources in a storage network to be understood in terms of their impact on business processes. CA is delivering this technology across other components in its Unicenter systems management framework as well.

IBM, for its part, has touted the autonomic features it is building into its hardware platforms, operating environments, and application software. IBM’s Tivoli software group—which develops and markets an array of management solutions that compete with BMC and CA—is poised to play a key role in Big Blue’s autonomic renaissance. “What autonomic computing does is allow you to take corrective action or automate a cure based on a set of policies that you define for different business processes. Recovery of business systems within a given process and objective, that’s the bigger thought around autonomic computing,” says Steve Wojtowecz, director of Tivoli strategy with IBM.

Among analysts, Ptak likes what he sees in BMC’s proposed solution. “BMC has been … focused in addressing its problems and reforming itself organizationally, shuffling things around to put together a solution that will allow them to be pretty effective in addressing the pieces that they’ve identified.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.