Startup releases configuration management database

Customers looking to automate the discovery, collection and maintenance of configuration data across their application infrastructure might be interested in a new product available from a management start-up, Tideway Systems.

Tideway, launched in the U.K. in 2002 and headed by former Orchestream CEO Richard Muirhead, this week plans to make its overseas debut by introducing its Foundation product. The Foundation 4.6 appliance sits in a data center and is plugged in to the network, from where it auto-discovers application configurations across a data center and maintains a database of blueprints, and automatically tracks changes. Foundation uses agent-less collection methods, querying servers and other devices for configuration information.

Tideway executives say the product, which comes as an appliance pre-loaded with the company's proprietary software, can be used to collect data, as well as serve as a configuration management database (CMDB) for large enterprise networks.

U.S. companies and vendors alike started paying closer attention to the benefits of a CMDB last year as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) grew more popular. While the concept of a centralized CMDB was already detailed by ITIL, vendors had yet to deliver products. As recent as last month, products started to emerge from management heavyweights BMC and Computer Associates, asset management software makers like Altiris and Peregrine, as well as a crop of new vendors -- Collation, mValent, Relicore and Troux -- dedicated solely to tracking application configuration.

According to Forrester Research analyst Jean-Pierre Garbani, "the implementation of a CMDB is at the core of configuration management." A CMDB stores details of the application and infrastructure components elements that "an organization uses to provide and manage its IT services," he says.

New to Tideway's latest release is the ability to model business applications based on software configurations and the data center components applications touch. The product also has enhanced version identification for software packages such as Solaris and Sybase. Previous versions performed an auto-discovery and maintained a database, and Tideway executives say they intend to continue to enhance the software's knowledge library with vendor-specific data.

For Stephen Ashton, automating the collection of configuration data and being able to maintain one CMDB (down from more than 20 separate databases) was key to his organization rolling out Tideway Foundation. The director of global IT business management for Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, a global investment bank in London, says he looked for a product when the bank expanded its reach to the U.S. and regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley demanded he keep accurate accounts of configurations.

The product automates the collection and maintenance of the CMDB, which he says helps his staff stay on top of configuration changes that could impact application performance. In the future, he says he hopes Foundation will help his staff determine utilization and plan for capacity based on the data.

With more than 6,000 documented changes per year, Ashton says automation is the only way to attain the speed and scalability to handle the complexity of change in the organization's environment. "Human beings would never be able to keep up with all the data we need to identify what is happening with our application infrastructure," he says.

Tideway Systems' Foundation 4.6 starts at US$100,000 and is priced depending on customer networks.

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