BMC's software plans stir controversy

BMC Software Inc. officials this week said the software vendor is starting to rebound from the financial hit it took in its last fiscal year. And while the development strategy for BMC's flagship Patrol product line is stirring some controversy, IT managers attending the company's annual user conference here seemed willing to take a wait-and-see attitude.

Kirill Tatarinov, chief technology officer at Houston-based BMC, said a "stumble, due to complacency," caused the 13 percent drop in revenue that the developer of enterprise management software suffered during the fiscal year ended March 31. But business was up 10 percent on a sequential basis in the fourth quarter and should continue to improve, according to Robert Beauchamp, who took over as BMC's president and CEO in January.

The company also hopes to benefit from a Patrol upgrade that was previewed here and is due to be officially announced in late summer. However, the upcoming Patrol 7 release lies at the core of the controversy over BMC's development plans because it integrates multiple management tools more tightly than the company has done in the past.

Patrol 7 constitutes a significant rewrite of last year's Patrol 2000 release, which was an amalgam of existing BMC products and tools the company had acquired in the past few years. Tatarinov described Patrol 7 as a new architecture and foundation, but he said it's "not a framework" that external components such as job schedulers can be plugged into.

Still, the upgrade looks a lot like a framework, said Corey Ferengul, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn. "And IT managers have already rejected the idea of a framework," Ferengul said. "Counting on tighter integration driving sales [is] relying on something happening that we've never seen before."

But other BMC watchers were supportive. "The single architecture promised by Patrol 7 is going to be good for customers," said Audrey Rasmussen, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates Inc. in Boulder, Colo. "Other companies routinely loosely tie acquired tools together and sell them as a suite."

Jasmine Noel, an analyst at Hurwitz Group Inc. in Framingham, Mass., agreed with Rasmussen. "Enterprises use multiple products on different platforms and for different reasons, but they all have to work together," Noel said. "BMC has awakened to that and is selling the tools the way [companies] use them."

Even though Patrol 7 is a new architecture, BMC "says it will be a no- or low-impact upgrade," said Brenda Kirkpatrick, a programmer at Wilmington, Del.-based credit card issuer MBNA Corp. and president of the Eastern Regional Patrol Users Group in Falls Church, Va.

Kirkpatrick said she initially was inclined to be skeptical about that promise. But she was reassured after overseeing MBNA's uneventful recent upgrade from Patrol 3.2 to 3.4, a project that skipped Version 3.3 and included a migration from a mixture of old and acquired management agents to a single integrated agent.

BMC's plans to embed an Oracle Corp. database in Patrol 7, which were also announced this week (see story), also could be helpful, Kirkpatrick said. According to BMC, the database will be used as a single metadata repository for Patrol 7 in order to help tie together what has been a collection of best-of-breed products.

Patrol 7 will include an additional layer of complexity in its use of a graphical user interface (GUI) server. Rival Tivoli Systems Inc. in Austin, Texas, included similar technology in its enterprise management framework, Ferengul said, adding that users "have got to be looking at it and wondering how much upgrading will they have to do."

But Loretta Clark, an IT specialist at Michelin North America Inc. in Greenville, S.C., had a more positive view of the GUI server plans. The technology "offers a common view across applications and platforms, and I think that's going to be worth it," she said.

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