BMC Software has added IBM's IMS mainframe database to the platforms supported by its SmartDBA family of products, completing a two-year mission to provide tools for managing all of the major databases from a single, web-based console.
SmartDBA System Administration for IMS is due for release next month and provides a tool for all of the basic IMS database administration tasks. It joins similar BMC tools for both the mainframe and distributed versions of IBM's DB2 database, and tools for managing databases from Oracle, Microsoft and Sybase.
BMC launched an effort about two years ago to provide a single console that could be used to manage several database types. With enterprises trying to minimise IT costs while also juggling several database platforms, a console that provides a similar interface for managing them all could prove popular, said Richard Ptak, an analyst at Ptak, Noel & Associates.
"The costs of maintaining a collection of different databases spread around the enterprise with multiple tools are too high. Also, maintaining expertise in multiple different tools is inefficient and expensive," he said.
Computer Associates International and IBM have been increasing their investments in mainframe management tools, he said. BMC's other chief competitor is Quest Software.
SmartDBA could be particularly useful when it comes to mainframe databases, Ptak said. These are typically managed today through so-called green-screen products which work quite differently from the intuitive, graphical tools for managing more modern, relational databases such as Oracle 10g and Microsoft's SQL Server.
But fewer database administrators are being trained in mainframe systems; only two universities in the US still offer a full mainframe curriculum, according to Devon Shows, BMC director of strategic planning. So tools that make it easier for those accustomed to relational databases to learn how to manage mainframes should be welcomed by customers, he said.
"The current guys are more than happy to use BMC's tried and tested green-screens. But if you take an Oracle DBA and say 'We need to cross-train you on IMS and DB2,' these guys are used to GUI tools, web apps and Windows, that's what they've grown up with," Shows said.
SmartDBA won't turn relational DBAs into mainframe experts overnight, Shows acknowledged, and BMC has tried to conceal some of the complexities of mainframe management from SmartDBA users, in part to reduce the chances that they could do harm. "You've got a lot of rope there and you have to make sure people don't hang themselves," he said.
James Niccolai writes for IDG News Service