“Over the years, BMC Software has evolved from business service management (BSM) thought leader to BSM market leader,” wrote Forrester analyst and BSM expert Thomas Mendel in 2007.
Mendel acknowledged the company’s ability not only to popularise the concept of BSM – managing IT resources as a collection of business-defined services rather than technical components – but also to convert that concept into sales of its various IT management tools.
But he warned then that the novelty of the BSM angle would not last forever. “The company needs a fresh vision for 2010 and beyond,” Mendel wrote.
Although it has fared better than many other software companies, BMC’s revenue growth has been in gradual decline over the past 12 months, and in October 2009, the company revealed that it had slipped into negative growth: second quarter revenues shrank by 1% year-on-year to $462 million.
Right on cue, and revealing that it had taken Mendel’s recommendation to heart, BMC chose the same month to launch its “fresh vision”: Dynamic BSM.
Unfortunately, even after careful perusal of the marketing literature and a briefing with BMC’s vice president for strategy Jim Grant, it is not entirely clear what the central idea at the core of this new vision might be.
BMC’s explanation of ‘Dynamic BSM’ certainly touches upon some valid themes. One is the fact that the growing preponderance of virtual systems and – to a lesser extent – cloud computing services in corporate IT infrastructure makes the need for disciplined IT management processes that are focused on business value all the more pressing.
For one thing, uncontrolled provisioning of virtual servers can lead to inefficiency and fragility. But also, inefficient and manual IT management processes threaten the scalability and business-responsiveness that virtualisation and the cloud are supposed to engender.
“Actually configuring and provisioning a [physical] server can be done in a couple of days,” explains Grant. “But the auditing and compliance work can take up to six months.”
This management overhead applies equally to virtual and cloud-based deployments. By automating the processes by which the IT department ensures a new server won’t break the existing infrastructure, BMC’s various BSM tools can reduce the provisioning workload by up to 95%, says Grant.
Another theme expressed in BMC’s ‘Dynamic BSM’-led marketing material is service lifecycle management. This is an approach to IT/business service management that seeks to link all the tasks that occur during the lifetime of a service – from functionality request through to retirement – in a single, consistent workflow.
This approach is advocated in the latest version of the ITIL framework and is the ambition of many IT/business service management adopters. Service lifecycle management “is where the [service management] journey is going next,” Colm O’Shea, group IT customer services manager for financial services giant Irish Life & Permanent, told Information Age in September 2009.
So the component themes chime with customer demand. However, the introduction IT service management (ITSM) represented a qualitative step up from traditional, non-service oriented IT support, as did BSM from ITSM. Perhaps it still needs greater clarity, but despite its description by BMC as “the next big step forward in the future of enterprise IT management”, at first look Dynamic BSM does not present a qualitative step up, more a refinement and maturation of existing BSM.
What BMC is really trying to communicate is that it has improved the functionality of its product suite since it first began to market around BSM, mainly through acquisition.
For example, the company’s 2008 purchase of data centre automation provider BladeLogic allows it to support the kind of scalable, automated management processes that virtual and cloud-based environments require. And according to Grant, its October 2009 acquisition of discovery tools vendor Tideway Systems will let customers maintain up-to-date records of their own IT estates, in turn enabling service lifecycle workflows.
These are awkward messages to broadcast, and it is understandable why BMC has turned to the ‘strategic vision’ approach in this case. Nevertheless, it may be that the company took Mendel’s 2007 recommendation too literally.