BMC CTO talks IT management

BMC Software CTO Tom Bishop, formerly CTO of Tivoli Software, came on board at BMC earlier this year, bringing his 20 years of IT management experience to help BMC evolve from a point-product vendor to an IT service management provider. Recently, Bishop spoke with Network World Senior Editor Denise Dubie about his plans and directions for the company.

Tell me about your responsibilities at BMC.

One of the primary responsibilities I have is helping drive a key part of BMC's Business Service Management strategy, the whole integration platform called Atrium. I am currently involved in the design and the implementation of that technology within the R&D organization.

Could you elaborate a bit on the Atrium platform?

BMC has been known as a very good point-product company - having good products in a lot of different areas but not having made a significant investment in integration technology in the past. Certainly not, for example, in the way that people historically viewed Tivoli. What we have been doing now for a couple of years is integrate a number of products together around what we call pillars. There are five pillars [in] Atrium. There is a presentation component, which consists of the dashboard and reporting pillars. There is a CMDB [configuration management database] component, which is specified by ITIL [Information Technology Infrastructure Library]. We've got a service model, which is also being added as part of the CDMB, and finally we are embracing Web services as a core component of the Atrium architecture. All these form the backbone of the integration strategy that makes BSM real.

Have management vendors seen a demand from customers for better integration?

There's a pretty clear market shift within organizations that we talk to, and this has been true for some time now, that IT organizations have to become more business-focused. In order to deliver on that business focus or to make it easier for IT organizations to work in a business context, information that has traditionally been kept in disparate places and managed in very disjointed and discrete ways now has to be integrated in some way. Probably the most common way - and the approach being embraced by BMC - is around a core set of IT service-management best practices.

Do you think management vendors should take on the onus of integration for customers?

I absolutely do. I spend a fair amount of my time - about half - communicating externally for the company, and a lot of that time is spent talking with customers. One of the single most important requirements we hear over and over again is that customers would prefer management vendors do a much better job of integrating their products than they have done in the past. It will make it easier for the customer to use the products and get value more quickly without a lot of time and effort doing integration.

Aside from technology, how does BMC help customers get their BSM strategies in order?

An important thing for us is to capture the best practices but offer the solution in such a way that customers have multiple on-ramps. Rather than saying, "here is a fully integrated IT service management solution that embraces process and best practices, buy the whole thing," we are offering a more incremental approach. There isn't [just] one way to get into a more service-oriented IT management approach. BMC, in particular, has eight "routes to value." It's our way of saying, "here's where you want to get to, but you all aren't starting in the same place." The next step for one customer could be tacking [on] asset management, but for another it could be incident management. What we tried to do is basically have it both ways: We deliver an integrated solution that has a clear road map associated with the steps or progression [that] we recommend organizations take, but [we try] not to be too prescriptive with that. We have a flexible solution that allows you to start in several different places and then take the next steps as those steps are appropriate to your particular need and your environment - but with confidence that they all integrate.

What technologies do customers most request from BMC?

We have customers coming to us talking about the big picture. Because of the budget pressures of the last few years, IT departments are finding they have to prove the business relevance of what they are doing, or it gets outsourced. I've spoken with customers who have looked at every piece of IT, and if they couldn't find how it helped them do better business, they cut it or outsourced it.

Any technologies rising to the top of the heap?

The two top themes we are hearing from customers are BSM and CMDB, with identity management probably being a close third. Those are the three that people ask for and want to talk about, because they are either concerned or scratching their heads about them. And we understand that these are potentially large undertakings, so we are offering ways to consume it all in smaller, bite-sized chunks. [A new technology] has got to find a way to integrate with what they currently have and it also has to be incremental in nature.

How does BMC tie BSM to its identity-management products?

Within the CMDB, all the various IT processes operate against a consistent view of the underlying environment. By tying together information about configuration items, associating various roles, responsibilities and administrator access, and associating that information with the configuration items, we can now integrate identity management into configuration and asset management in a way that was hard to do in the past.

How quickly can IT managers see results with a BSM rollout?

It's an evolutionary process that takes time, but I think an organization should expect to start to see results within three to six months if they go about it in the correct way.

What is the biggest challenge for management vendors to evolve their products to meet IT managers' business-oriented needs?

The industry has evolved. I would say the classic four vendors - BMC, Computer Associates, HP and IBM Tivoli - have all frankly not been as aggressive about understanding the changes that were happening in IT as they needed to be. All of us have been waking up to the realization that IT needs to be managed with the business. It's a challenge for us to get out of our own skin that we've had in the past, and we've got to help people understand that we are a different kind of company ready to address new IT management problems.

Is BMC open to integrating with its competitors?

The key requirement is to do this in a way that is truly open. We can begin to integrate with third-party products. We don't go into shops where they don't have CA, HP or IBM. I'm sure they see BMC in their shops. And any vendor that doesn't have a mechanism or provide within their solution or architecture the ability to integrate with what the customer already has is just not going to fly. Companies have spent tens of millions of dollars on these investments, and they aren't going to walk away from them lightly.

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