BMC sees its new Atrium 7.5, due for official launch next month, as the platform for delivering business service management (BSM) going forward. Alongside this is the important but hard to do addition of applying ‘What-If' testing of infrastructure changes before they are actually deployed.
One of the problems for a large infrastructure management vendor is the sheer volume of individual products it offers for specific IT infrastructure tasks, with further third party products typically also deployed within any organisation it is supplying. To provide a business service, a series of these products may need to be brought together and orchestrated to run in a particular way.
Atrium, as the name suggests, provides a central area for integrating all the many information and functionality sources using Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) to deliver BSM. This should allow customers to achieve substantial improvements in cost, efficiency and speed of deployment.
Atrium's core services include: a service catalogue, impact analysis, reconciliation and normalisation engines, which are applied to discovered configuration items (CIs), and dynamic service modelling. It provides applications for: discovery, analytics, service level management, the Atrium Orchestrator to order the tasks and dashboards to provide visual management.
For BMC the configuration management database (CMDB) has become the core equipment data repository and is core to Atrium therefore; BMC is the market leader in this approach (as most have ‘bolted-on' the ITIL-championed CMDB which means it gets updated after the fact).
Matthieu Laurenceau, BMC's Lead Technical Marketing in EMEA told me: "We see the CMDB as a reliable single source of truth on the infrastructure components".
This leads us to its Unified Service Model (USM) 7.5, the idea being to provide an integrated approach for discussing, representing and measuring how services get provided and consumed. This can help in reaching a point of being able to holistically view the total cost of delivering services from a constantly updating service model. Part of this is achieved by the Central Service Catalog (-ue for UK readers!) which is supported by an extended data model. The dynamic service model is updated based on queries and templates with cost tracking enabled by Atrium.
Laurenceau explained that, with an SOA approach, there can be loosely-coupled product integrations with web services located anywhere in the infrastructure, created and collapsed without damaging the infrastructure but controlled via the centralised UDDI web services registry.
By now it will be becoming clear this is a comprehensive release and a single article could not do it justice. However, I need to mention another key development. BMC's Remedy IT Service Management (ITSM) 7.5—which covers network incidents and problems, changes, releases, assets and contracts—has been enhanced with decision support, software licence management and pervasive service orientation changes, to mention a few.
However, its most important update is probably change impact management which includes a ‘What-If' capability for planned changes, so that the effect of the change will be ascertained before it is deployed in real life. The importance of this capability to a large enterprise cannot be overstated since 60–80% of infrastructure errors occur when changes are made.
Application testing specialists may wonder why this approach is not standard in network management systems, but it is very hard to simulate live operation—and the more so because the exact make-up of the network and systems infrastructure is unclear and often changing. This emphasises the need for a highly reliable and up-to-the minute CMDB. In that regard, BMC has also included the capability to automatically track changes when VMware's VMotion moves a virtual machine.
Not that everything is in the CMDB; Laurenceau told me that, for instance, capacity management information is better held elsewhere. However, the company is a driving force collaborating with others in the development of federated CMDB (CMDBf) repositories and leveraging COSMOS open source work on certification. It is leveraging ‘out-of-the-box' JDBC adapters created by the community (for example LDAP, SQL Server and SAP).
If this all sounds very complex, that is because it is; but users will be spared most of this complexity during implementation. For instance, a company may buy BMC discovery, change management and asset management—but will get CMDB and other needed elements as a matter of course as part of this. Laurenceau also mentioned service management process modelling (SMPM); he described this as "super-documentation" that helps in understanding how best practices are actually enforced within the solution. This should significantly ease management by visualising the infrastructure and dashboards for the CIOs.
There are many more items I could have mentioned. For instance the service desk includes embedded best practices with the software updated so that it removes a lot of mouse clicks and automatically fills in entries. This, said Laurenceau, halved time for most incidents and divided it by five for complex incidents.
So Atrium and Remedy 7.5 are a big deal for the company. Despite the credit crunch and the possibility that decisions to purchase will take longer, Laurenceau sees BMC's biggest 2009 challenge as "keeping up with the pace of delivery". Apart from existing user upgrades, companies are likely to come to BMC saying something like: "Our budget has stagnated. Can you help us?"
If the response can be to show how a rapid ROI can be achieved then there is no reason to doubt his optimism.