COMPUTER BUSINESS REVIEW

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Issue Date: December 2006

Service economy

December 2006

Interest in the configuration management database (CMDB) is driving a wave of interest in business service management, or BSM. Kevin White looks behind the acronyms.

"Developments around the CMDB are going to drive the IT roadmap for some years to come," predicts Siki Giunta, Managed Objects CEO, who believes she has successfully steered the software house into the business end of the service management market.
Siki Giunta, Managed Objects CEO
Siki Giunta, Managed Objects CEO
Six years after introducing and popularising the then new market category of BSM tools, Managed Objects is among one of a number of vendors that claim demand for BSM software is finally taking off. "The company is growing at 35% to 40% a year. We are in a very nice position," Giunta says.
Organisations do appear to have bought into the idea of BSM, and the best practice messages fostered by IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) have really caught on in the past year or two. ITIL fosters an approach to IT service management based on the development of an understanding between business services and the IT elements drawn on to deliver them.
An early stop on that journey is the construction of a CMDB as a repository of asset and service data. All the big systems management software suppliers have now delivered products designed to support CMDB initiatives, while niche vendors such as Managed Objects have designed service management applications to feed data into a CMDB.
"We see the configuration management database as sitting at the very base of all analysis and decision-making that IT departments will be making in the future," says Giunta.
The ideal CMDB should, according to ITIL, provide accurate information on configurations and their documentation in a way that will support all the other service management processes of incident, problem and change management. Analyst houses and software vendors alike are pushing the idea of a federated or virtual CMDB as one means of reducing the complexity of deployment, using software tools that automate topology discovery to accelerate the CMDB build process. That requirement has forced a fair amount of market consolidation.
BMC and CA have each developed CMDB and discovery systems for themselves, but as Michael Allen, EMEA director for SLM at Compuware, observes: “There’s been a real land-grab by the other big systems vendors, which all want to get into this area. IBM acquired Collation, EMC bought n-Layers, Symantec took over Relicore and Mercury had Appilog, which of course are now both owned by HP.”
Bob Beauchamp, BMC president and CEO
Bob Beauchamp, BMC president and CEO
Mapping the IT world
All these vendors see a need for software that will automatically populate and update the CMDB data by discovering which part of which application or business process is running on which infrastructure components. From there, IT can start to trace how the interdependencies between them map against each other. Adding visualisation and analytics to that process makes it possible to show the impact and root cause of any change that occurs in the infrastructure.
Compuware does not ship a CMDB of its own, but has a deal with IBM/Collation to provide the necessary discovery and application mapping and configuration management capabilities to its Vantage application service management suite.
“Perhaps 12 or 18 months ago there was a view internally that we should look to acquire this technology for ourselves,” says Allen.
“But it has become clear that no one vendor will win out in this arena. Development of a CMDB calls for a federated approach, where data and data views need to be pulled from many different and unrelated repositories. We see ourselves as being a good citizen in that environment, one where there is a need to be able to integrate with many other management databases and systems controls, whoever they belong to and wherever they are deployed.”
Allen argues that such a set up delivers a system that is best suited to monitoring the end-to-end behaviour of an application and the state of the underlying IT infrastructure.
“In many situations the degradation of service performance or complete failure of a service can be traced back to an IT change made on a production system. There is a high level of correlation between end-user problems and IT change,” he says..
In combining the Collation product with Vantage, Compuware has added a change indicator to its application service management dashboard, which can be used to drill down into the CMDB to establish the root cause of a problem.
“Auto discovery is usually done periodically, with the CMDB being updated, refreshed or synchronised accordingly,” adds Allen.
“Monitoring for service performance and availability is an ongoing process. A problem becomes the trigger to look for what is drifting out of tolerance, and that sets off the update process for application dependency mapping.”
Richard Muirhead, CEO of Tideway – one of the few remaining pure-play application dependency vendors in this sector – maintains that IT executives are still getting to grips with the many ways the CMDB underpins and permeates IT.
“Once you start to understand the relationships between configuration items and can view the interconnections that exist in business processes, you start to see that it could revolutionise the use of existing service management toolsets,” he says.
Dependency information helps improve the change management process, it can be used to improve availability and resilience, and it identifies the right applications, servers and network devices to track for compliance reporting.
“It is a lens on the workings of IT,” comments Muirhead. “But it remains an exceptionally early-stage market. Customers are still refining their requirements and still looking for the right balance of features.”
BMC, which has adopted BSM as an overarching strategy for product development and deployment, is more bullish about the state of the market and claims that some 1800 BMC customers are already involved in CMDB deployments.
In a first ever stab at market sizing the service level management and business service management sector, figures compiled by EMA suggest the sector produced revenues of $1375 billion in 2005, with projected annual growth during the next five years forecast to be running at nearly 17%.
But Managed Objects and Tide-way, plus the other sector innovators of Opsware, Troux Technologies and Cendura, already look to be market-share also-rans. Together the top five vendors of BMC, CA, HP, IBM and Mercury hold 58% of the total, and now dominate the BSM landscape.
CA has announced it is making available its MDB change and con-figuration management system as a standalone product, because it is the cornerstone of ITIL adoption. IBM and HP, on the other hand, have arrived relatively late to the party.
Identify outages
The recent arrival of Tivoli Availability Process Manager from IBM correlates the impacts of outages on the business and, when an outage occurs, identifies failing components by automatically launching diagnostic tools. IBM has also delivered functionality that came from last November’s acquisition of Collation. The resulting Tivoli Application Dependency Discovery Manager – or TADDM – will be embedded into its CCMDB (IBM’s change and configuration management database), which has federation capability to third-party service desk and asset management tools.
The TADDM system uses an agentless discovery engine and coordinates some prescribed discovery sensors to collect the necessary asset identity, attribute and configuration details. That data is fed into a data centre reference model that is used to create the run-time application topologies which, along with the configuration data, interdependencies and change histories, are stored in the database.
Although HP has offered a CMDB with its OpenView Service Desk software since 1999, the integration work it has just completed to tie Peregrine’s AssetCenter into HP OpenView Service Desk represents a foundation of fresh new Active CMDB strategy.
Todd deLaughter, VP of the company’s OpenView unit, says: “We can offer full end-to-end lifecycle management, from automated discovery and logging of assets to the financial management of IT, chargeback and asset procurement.”
DeLaughter also claims that HP’s revitalised approach to service management will provided products that have some powerful service abstraction features. “We can start to provision users according to a service and to their role, rather than having provision them one by one by server, by application or by database,” he says.
“We can look at transaction performance from the user perspective to measure the full experience, then drill down to do root cause analysis.”
HP also has a longer-term strategy to integrate assets in a federated way using service-oriented architecture (SOA). In effect, assets would be published as a web service that could be consumed by HP OpenView modules or other asset repositories or directories. Significantly, the asset centre software and HP’s Active CMDB will use the same SOA approach to federating information.
BMC’s Atrium CMDB has been bundled into its asset and service management products, and the vendor is now looking to add support of CMDB to its remote monitoring products. “Version 2 of Atrium is now well established in customer production environments, and users are quite happy with how the CMDB works out of the box,” claims Paul Arthur, director of solutions management at the company.
The second-generation product comes with new and enhanced auto-discovery tools, which automatically populate it not just with hardware and software configuration data, but also with details on items such as access authorisation, user credentials, and business process information.
“The system had been enhanced with some improved federation capabilities that bring data pointers back to the CMDB,” he says. “Those data points are regularly synchronised or validated to ensure their currency.”
BMC’s Discovery series sits alongside Atrium and reaches out across the infrastructure to build an inventory of what it finds there. Then it probes to see how the infrastructure items for a business service are configured, builds a view of the relationships and interactions between them and then goes on to check for the identity of the users of that service.
“Using those discovery tools constantly to monitor and measure changes ensures it is not a desired state CMDB, but is an actual, live CMDB,” says Arthur. “It provides a single version of the truth.”
Developing and deploying a configuration management database will be a major undertaking, and the latest thinking is that the most effective approach is indeed the federated data model. This has configuration-item data held in a common data store with other less critical attribute data federated and fed from other application databases. That way, configuration data can be shared without high set-up and maintenance costs.
The CMDB360° product from Managed Objects feeds the CMDB with both remote ‘federated’ data and local data dynamically generated from existing IT configuration data and service models. It also comes with analytics features that assist in visualisation and drift, gap or root cause analysis investigations. This is a particularly important feature set in cases where the business view of IT, which is concerned with meeting service levels and other business priorities, may be at odds with the functional view of IT, where administrators are focused on the state and condition of the IT infrastructure itself.
Managed Objects’ Giunta says that experience has shown ITIL-driven implementations of a CMDB tend to be bottom-up, starting out as incident management or change management automation projects. But ultimately customers want to see business views of a service.
“The executive sponsors behind CMDB projects will often tend to be a CTO or CIO – people who are pushing initiatives to align IT to the business,” she says. “Every CMDB will bring a service layer and then create a need for a management dashboard to visualise and mine the business process. And that is going to drive new business.”
CBR opinion
There is nothing new about auto discovery tools generating visual maps of the IT infrastructure, but BSM vendors are now able to provide tools that not only identify software applications and their interdependencies, but integrate well with change management. New IT service dependency mapping tools discover applications and underlying servers, as well as some switching fabric to show peer-to-peer and hierarchical relationships across them. Together they could bring much-needed business meaning to service management practices.


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