Q&A: BMC takes on management of cloud computing

Cloud computing makes systems management even more important --- and much more complex

As if managing your current IT operations weren't challenging enough, along comes cloud computing to plaster on another layer of complexity. How does your current management strategy need to evolve to support private cloud? How do you seamlessly control a hybrid private-public cloud?

No one has all the answers, but BMC Software, Inc. -- a champion of the concept of business service management -- is moving aggressively toward making cloud just another service option to be managed, just like internal servers, networking, storage and applications.

In this installment of the IDG Enterprise CEO Interview Series, BMC CEO Bob Beauchamp spoke with IDGE Chief Content Officer John Gallant and Computerworld Editor-in-Chief Scot Finnie and Technologies Editor Johanna Ambrosio. Beauchamp talked about BMC's cloud strategy, why BMC thinks IBM and HP are the wrong answer for management buyers and how BMC's acquisitions have positioned the company to dominate the evolving management market. BMC's Chief Technology Officer, Kia Behnia, also took part in this discussion.

This is an edited transcript of the full interview.

(Read more from the IDG Enterprise CEO Interview Series, including Q&As with Cisco CEO John Chambers, Riverbed CEO Jerry Kennelly and SAS CEO Jim Goodnight.)

Cloud computing

Q: You're managing and building 150 cloud-based data centers for clients. Are these mostly private clouds?

Behnia: We're actually quite active on the public clouds that some of the service providers are developing. But the majority of them are private clouds.

Beauchamp: We've done some work with Amazon, for instance, around enterprise service-request management. So if someone requests a service, our engine can determine whether or not the most economic place to provision is in EC2 or Google or elsewhere. And then if they say that's where they want to go, we can go provision it and do the chargeback. It goes through their procurement processes, so you've got auditability and control.

Q: How do you define the cloud? There are so many different definitions out there.

Behnia: We actually just use the NIST [National Institute of Standards and Technology] definition because we find that to be the most pragmatic and most vendor-neutral. It's fundamentally that the cloud focuses on delivering services. I think this sometimes gets lost in a lot of the discussion around cloud computing. Everybody's talking about infrastructure and hypervisors and virtualization, all of the components. At the end of the day, what customers really care about is getting secure, reliable, trusted services, whether that's from their internal IT department or from the external broker to their IT department, or from an external provider directly.

Q: How do you differentiate cloud from virtualization?

Behnia: There are three critical elements that we're seeing across the various areas of cloud computing, whether that's infrastructure as a service, platform as a service or software as a service. First of all, the majority of the environments are virtualized. Most enterprises are not 100% virtualized. Many of the workloads and applications operate in non-virtual environments. That's very important from a management standpoint. The second characteristic is that they're highly automated, because you can argue that without automation you don't have a cloud. Amazon doesn't have hundreds of sys admins provisioning these servers. The third piece is that they're service oriented - in other words, typically there is a set of service offerings that are defined. You can think of it as a catalogue or a menu of items where you can define and differentiate different tiers of service -- gold, silver or bronze -- and bring forward things such as pricing.

Q: Do customers want to manage their cloud environments with the same tools they use to manage their non-cloud environments?

Beauchamp: We've heard very loud and clear that they do not want to buy a new set of widgets to manage a new set of widgets. Customers have built workflows that they've adopted through the years. They need the tools to plug into those workflows. The fact that it's a cloud is really irrelevant. The customers just need to request a service, have the service provision, have some engine determine where is the least expensive and best-suited platform for the request, and then maintain the service level around the request with transparency and compliance. The fact it's on a cloud needs to be abstracted out of the discussion. That is an infrastructure discussion around a cost model and a delivery model, not an end-user decision.

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