BMC positions itself firmly in the BSM (business systems management) sector - partly because the company invented the term.
Five years ago, BMC strategists decided there was a fundamental flaw with all systems management companies, according to Peter Armstrong, BMC's corporate strategist.
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"Everyone was measuring everything to do with IT functions, without ever tying that up with business processes. We set out to make IT run as a business function. So our rationale is to measure the business services we want to run," says Armstrong. BMC christened this business service management, he says.
BMC has a large range of products that tie in classic systems management with this new aim to ensure that IT assets and resources are used from a business perspective, confirms Roy Illsley, senior research analyst at the Butler Group.
Unlike others, BMC does not use the CMDB as a tie-in to its other products, so end users may use BMC Atrium CMDB without being committed to BMC's other applications, which is a show of faith. Atrium CMDB is available as a stand-alone version through BMC Atrium CMDB Enterprise Manager. But it can provide an enterprise integration engine (EIE) for integrating into the CMDB, as well as a definitive software library (DSL).
This stand-alone version includes Atrium CMDB and is capable of reconciliation, federation, data modelling, and integration. The EIE simplifies the mapping of external data sources to the CMDB by providing graphical mappings directly to BMC Atrium CMDB Common Data Model. The DSL can organise and standardise applications too. This makes deployments more precise and means more accurate information is gathered.
BSM only realises its full value if it reaches across the entire organisation. This calls for BMC's Workflows application, which co-ordinates cross-IT processes, automates and provides a panoramic view of the entire infrastructure, no matter how diverse it is. It delivers new IT services quicker and more accurately by using policy-based configuration automation, confirms Illsley.
BMC Workflows allows infrastructure problems to be found and fixed quickly, says the analyst, which is a boon to cost reduction in management systems. "BMC achieves this," says Illsley, "by cutting configuration, support, and compliance costs for the full range of client devices."
In systems management, service level agreements (SLAs) - be they on bandwidth or web server - are always closely scrutinised now. This is another of BMC's strengths. It can define so they can be supported by the IT function, instead of being some unrealistic pinnacle of excellence. If SLAs could just be more pragmatic and less likely to cause management contention.
With Workflows built on an open architecture, it has a shared data repository, unified service model, and common user and reporting interfaces. This helps Atrium give cross-IT process integration and a single view of the services the IT department provides.
Though the product set is valid in any environment, it's especially strong in an ITIL (information technology infrastructure library) context. Especially with ITIL V3, which cites CMDB as a federated database, where version two of ITIL described it more ambiguously.
BMC's strategy is to have a range of individual products that can be implemented independently or configured as functionally related groups to solve a specific problem.
"The extensive BMC tools and solutions come from a strong background of systems management," says Butler Group's Illsley. "They extended a strong business focus to the management, understanding, and use of the IT function and infrastructure."
Another selling point of BMC's systems management offering is its support and training around ITIL. As ITIL becomes the de facto framework for good systems management (according to analysts at IDC and Butler) it becomes the foundation of strong organisation.
"ITIL was getting leverage," explained BMC strategist Armstrong. "Customers were all adopting it. So we decided to make BSM the practical embodiment of ITIL and rode the wave of systems management."
As rationalisation of companies becomes the imperative, so will ITIL, and so, by implication will BMC's CMDB Atrium.
The challenges now, says Armstrong, are to get businesses to explain what they actually want, decide how much they can spend, and work out how much their IT has actually cost them. The chronic inefficiency of many data centres is proof that systems management - generally - hasn't been up to this challenge. If BMC can achieve this, it could make significant gains.
Main products: Atrium CMDB Atrium CMDB Enterprise Manager. Atrium CMDB Common Data Model, BMC Mainframe Service Management BMC Patrol
Major customers: Group Danone, Diageo, Met Office, NHS Trust
Market share: 15 per cent
Annual revenue (to June 2008): $1.78 bn
Number of staff: 5,800
Licence fee: Not disclosed
Butler Group Financial Rating: 6.08