• United States



by J.P. Garbani

The Application Links Business Process and Infrastructure

Aug 11, 20034 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

For the past decade, competition in the enterprise system management space has been technology and IT operation oriented. As technologies multiplied in the enterprise landscape, the key to success for management solution vendors was to acquire more capabilities to capture and report data at the infrastructure component level. But IT is no longer an independent business. Its increased importance as a strategic enterprise business tool comes at a price: IT must deliver a constant, reliable and cost-effective service.

There are fundamental differences between managing infrastructures and managing services that rely on this infrastructure. Managing infrastructures is limited to maintaining all the components and their relations in working order. Managing a service supposes working to an end result: the satisfaction of user needs. This entails not merely the maintenance of the infrastructure’s condition, but also its constant evolution as a function of client demands. IT today resembles a busy highway. It is no longer enough to keep the bridges in good repair. They must be constantly enlarged and reinforced to guarantee that traffic will flow over them evenly and in time.

This consideration brings IT operations into a whole new era of infrastructure management. For the past 10 years, the focus was on the ability to collect data from technology components and provide operation-centric information about the infrastructure’s health. This is still necessary as a foundation, but no longer sufficient. The true problem is now to derive IT operational objectives from business processes objectives and to manage accordingly.

One of the keys to bridge a business process and the infrastructure is to model applications in terms of infrastructure components: the link between business process and infrastructure is the application. This provides not only a way to understand how a business objective, at the application level, is translated into infrastructure data, but also a clear identification of the impact that a component has on the application and the business process that it supports. IT operations cannot only do a better, faster and cheaper job of identifying and correcting problems as seen from the end-user standpoint; it can also plan changes to the infrastructure in the least disruptive ways.

This philosophical change will alter enterprise system management as we know it, not only as a vast improvement over the present situation, but also in the way the market is approached by major enterprise management product vendors. Many IT shops rely on a mixed bag of products to manage their different processes and until now, the typical competition has been focused at that particular level.

For example, BMC Software’s recent acquisitions of Remedy and IT Masters provide complementary platforms to create the communication base between IT and the business (Remedy) and model the IT infrastructure according to IT services (IT Masters). This is on top of a solid foundation of enterprise system management products. Patrol, which is solidly established at the server, application and database level, but also the improvements on network management functions coming from Perform SA (Visualis).

On the surface, this does not seem very different from the “framework and suite” approach of years past, but it is. The goal of the framework solution was to place a product to support each and every IT management process and, for the most part, it did not work very well. The goal of the new initiatives signaled by BSM is to occupy the high ground and become the CIO’s best friend, without directly disrupting the existing infrastructure management process legacy.

Because of this strategic position, BSM puts BMC in a more competitive situation than ever against its traditional rivals (Computer Associates, HP and IBM) and provides a counterpoint to similar approaches from up and coming vendors such as Mercury Interactive and its Business Technology Optimization (BTO) initiative.

“Business” is fast becoming a replacement for the “e” prefix in infrastructure management. Expect a proliferation of “b” based acronyms. In the case of the major infrastructure management vendors, the use of the “b word” marks a real effort to manage IT infrastructures to business objectives. Within the next months, Forrester expects similar progress from CA, HP and IBM.