BMC makes cloud management push with Amazon as partner

The set of cloud management products will help companies keep control of data even outside their firewalls

BMC Software announced today it is launching an expanded set of cloud-management products and services, including a partnership with Amazon Web Services that is designed to help end-user companies keep control of data even outside their firewalls.

The Amazon partnership is a differentiating factor for BMC, but it's not the most important part of this set of announcements or of BMC's cloud offerings in general, acknowledges Kia Behnia, BMC's CTO.

[ While EMC is joining with Amazon, Microsoft is taking aim at Amazon Web Services with its Windows Azure platform. | Get the real story on the cloud from whurley, InfoWorld's cloud computing blogger, and subscribe to the Cloud Computing Report newsletter. ]

Cloud computing is an extension of virtualization, and virtualization is an extension of centralized datacenter computing that requires process control, automation, and policy based controls to help both with the technical operation of the datacenter and with the company's ability to comply with financial and other regulations on what it can do with its data, Behnia says.

ABC: An Introduction to Virtualization

The market for cloud-based and all-in-one datacenter management tools has become more crowded recently, with new packages, marketing campaigns and new produces from EMC's new Ionix business unit as well as Dell, VMware, Microsoft, NetSuite, CA and a host of startups.

BMC is extending its traditional systems management and business-process automation capabilities under the rubric of its Business Services Management (BSM) banner, which includes service automation, support, service assurance, service automation and the Atrium management software and Configuration Management Database (CMDB).

The company promises to let customers create a single catalog to centralize the applications, services and policies governing resources available through both internal and external datacenters, expanding the ability to set, audit, and maintain service levels on internal and external networks, and automate the provisioning, deprovisioning, change, movement and control of applications, virtual servers and other IT asset, whether they reside on servers designated within an internal or external cloud, within a virtual infrastructure, or on a more traditional datacenter server, Behnia says.

The poor economy is helping to drive many customers toward virtualization and cloud computing because of the promise that both can provide more centralized and efficient management of IT resources, Behnia says.

The economy is certainly driving some interest in both technologies, but not just in the need for end-user companies to cut costs, according to Bob Laliberte, analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

"There is a tremendous amount of hype around cloud right now, and all the systems management vendors are moving there because it's an inflection point," Laliberte says. "Managing virtual infrastructures has become a real priority for most companies, and cloud is an extension of that, sometimes within the datacenter, sometimes off-site. As customers change the way they do things, it presents and opportunity for HP or BMC or IBM to get in with customers they couldn't before."

Cloud is an opportunity for vendors, but it is also an opportunity for internal IT and datacenters, Behnia says. Business unit managers who might chafe under the restrictions that IT puts on use and location of data -- to maintain compliance with financial, privacy, or medical regulations -- can easily buy themselves an on-call IT infrastructure using a credit-card and an external cloud-computing provider such as Amazon Web Services, he says.

That gives the business units more control of the resources they need and pay for, but puts the organization as a whole at greater risk by fragmenting policies and technology controlling the use of data to comply with either corporate priorities or federal regulations, according to Deliver Cloud Benefits Inside Your Walls, a Forrester Research report BMC cites in its announcements.

That's a major reason BMC chose to partner with Amazon, extending BMC's datacenter and systems management capabilities to Amazon's cloud, and giving IT managers the same ability to monitor, control, automate, forecast, and track the use of IT assets on an external cloud as an internal one, Behnia says.

"It's true, though, that most of the interest we hear is about internal clouds, in fact lots of CIOs seem Amazon and public clouds as competitors," Behnia says. "They're being asked to do cost comparisons and explain why they don't offer similar pricing as public clouds."

BMC is trying to help those customers fix the weaknesses of many clouds on security, compliance, adherence to internal Service Level Agreements and other issues without looking obstructionist by refusing to work with public cloud providers at all.

"We're working with Amazon to provide a management layer that would sit on-premise at a customer's location to monitor and update those services," Behnia says. "That way, customers can make a policy decision on whether a certain request can be fulfilled through the Amazon cloud or an internal cloud and offer a single services catalog so they can offer what we call Happy Meal pricing -- giving business units a set of standard items that are priced consistently no matter where they're housed."

That kind of unified picture of internal and external IT infrastructures is necessary for companies to effectively control costs and internal resources, according to Tim Grieser, analyst at IDC.

That's true, Laliberte says, but it's also true that vendors are trying to get ahead of the cloud-computing vision and offer management, security and control over internal virtualized infrastructures as well as clouds that are, for the most part, either used for specific spikes in demand for compute power, or are in ongoing pilot programs.

"A lot of CIOs are interested in internal clouds, but they're leery of the performance issues and security inherent in the cloud environment," he says. "BMC and EMC, with Ionix and HP and IBM are all trying to address that because cloud is a significant [turning] point. The reality is that not a lot of things are going into the cloud right now, though."

This story, "BMC makes cloud management push with Amazon as partner" was originally published by CIO.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.