Q&A: BMC takes on management of cloud computing

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

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Q: So can you talk about the technology behind the scenes?

Behnia: The front end of this -- analogous to a restaurant or an on-line book store -- is a portal that would define a set of available offerings. Users can request the standard Linux desktop, regardless of whether that's physical or virtual, whether it's VMware or Zen, whether it's hosted in Amazon, or whether it's on premise. The second portion is really around orchestration and placement, so that you can actually fulfill those requests and automate that. And this is where we have the broadest and deepest capability, being able to automate provisioning of not just servers, but also network configurations, applications and storage associated with that service.

Q: What about the integration in this cloud environment -- if an IT shop is using your tools, but the cloud provider is not, or vice versa? How will you handle that integration to create a seamless management experience?

Behnia: A lot of customers want to set up an internal project cloud, and for a certain set of workloads be able to place those workloads into an Amazon environment. We've built an abstracted data model so that whether that server is placed internally or externally, from a configuration standpoint it is absolutely identical. The approval cycles are absolutely identical. Except when it comes to run time, we actually invoke the correct set of APIs to be able to leverage Amazon's APIs. So our value proposition is rather than tying all the management to each of the different technology silos, we've abstracted that out so enterprises can build their policies and workflows around the processes as opposed to around the technologies.

Q: Do customers need to change those workflows?

Behnia: I think the answer depends. Much of the work that was done around best practices frameworks and compliance doesn't change. It's technology independent. But we've seen at least a couple of areas where, to leverage the power of cloud and virtualization, those processes can be optimized. One of the critical areas is around auto-provisioning and configuration management. The whole premise of the cloud is that there's going to be so many changes to the environment that you need to have an up-to-date and scalable CMDB [configuration management database] and configuration management model that doesn't rely on human input. This entire life cycle can be done in an automated fashion.

Also, the cloud forces some issues around what is a service, what is my class of offerings, how do I optimize my processes around that? Certainly, most enterprises see automation as a clear pathway towards cloud. Many of our clients start by automating server provisioning and application deployment, then move into adding the service catalogue.

Automation tools in general

Q: There was a recent Forester study that talked about the adoption of automation tools within enterprises of all sizes, and the survey said only about half of the respondents had implemented an IT automation tool of some sort. How does that map to what you're seeing?

Beauchamp: The ones that are adopting automation have a tendency to be adopting the tool for a specific purpose. Once they've adopted it for a specific purpose, they realize what they've got. Our salespeople are not going to try to evangelize how you can completely redesign the way you do IT because it's too long a sales cycle. So they say, if what you're focused on Rackspace [Hosting}, as an example, is to be able to quickly provision and bring up a new server for your on-line subscribers, we'll do that for you. After they've put it that in they say, why couldn't I use that for remediation? So then they begin to spread out. It continues to evolve and move up.

There is nothing growing faster in our pipeline than automation. In this last quarter, our licensed bookings for non-mainframe products was 40% year-over-year growth, and the strongest piece within that is automation. And the pipeline's growing faster than that.

Behnia: One of the things you can measure is the time from when somebody in the business requests a new service and when that service is provisioned. We do this as a process audit with enterprises of all sizes. And it's a big eye opener, because if you were to look at this from the business standpoint, that reflects the agility of the IT department in being able to respond to increased demand.

Q: From a revenue perspective, will automation subsume your traditional systems management products at some point?

Beauchamp: No, it won't. It's certainly a faster-growing market than traditional red light, green light systems management, which has also migrated into something different now. It's really much more predictive and real-time optimization, seeing it and being able to reconfigure. Now when our traditional systems management product sees an issue, it can call over to its friend in the automation components to reconfigure the system in order to address what it sees coming, say a capacity-related issue it sees on the horizon.

Q: So we're finally seeing real, live autonomics -- systems that can heal themselves based on policy? The industry has been talking about those for 20 years.

Beauchamp: Yeah, we've been talking about this forever. The code actually works now. It's starting to really happen. I think traditional red and green light is not going away, but it's mutated into something that's more modern. But even with that migration, it's not as fast a growth as automation is right now.

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