BMC Software Sees Hybrid Clouds On Horizon

Seeking to manage virtual machines in the cloud from the same management console as on-premises VMs, BMC is enabling internal data centers to work with external resources.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

July 16, 2009

4 Min Read

BMC Software is working to give IT managers the power to provision their internal users with virtual machines, regardless of whether those VMs are hosted on company servers or in the Amazon EC2 cloud.

It's another step toward what observers call the hybrid cloud, or an internal data center working hand-in-glove with an external set of resources in a public cloud. Such a linkage would allow data centers to carry the bulk of a company's computing workload, but rely on a cloud to handle load spikes or non-critical, variable tasks, such as software testing. It may sound like BMC is just climbing aboard a hot button issue, but Herb Van Hook, VP of business planning, said BMC "has been led to the cloud by our customers. We had a joint customer with Amazon who was building out a hybrid cloud."

The customer operates "tens of thousands of servers," many of them virtualized, and it wanted to be able to provision employees with VMs on either its own servers or servers in EC2 -- from the same management console. Van Hook said he could not name the customer at this time but said it was a company that's part of the technology industry.

"They wanted to let their users go direct to Amazon and request resources but do it in a very governed way," he said in an interview.

BMC has been working with Amazon over the past year to incorporate its APIs for basic EC2 service into the operation of BMC's Service Request Management, a tool managing employees' requests for data center services. Other tools include Atrium Orchestrator, a task and process automation system which can automatically fulfill a request for an EC2 virtual machine; BladeLogic Operations Manager, for policy-based server configuration; and Atrium Configuration Management Database, a change management database capturing all specifications of operating systems, applications and virtual machines.

The BladeLogic Operations Manager can see servers, including virtual servers, and enforce compliance policies on them as they operate. The Atrium Configuration Management Database is linked to the other three BMC products and share information with them.

When a business user seeks seven virtual machines in EC2, he goes through his firm's BMC Service Request Management gateway. As the Amazon VMs are created, EC2 gives them unique identifiers, which are downloaded and stored in BMC's Atrium Configuration Management Database, along with their specifications.

"The BladeLogic Operations Manager puts a small agent on the server in EC2 as if it were a server on premises. Then it can see, back up, [and] snapshot the virtual machine as if it were a machine on premises," Van Hook said.

Local IT managers can set templates on what types of virtual servers they wish to authorize, track how many are being created and who is using them. It is BMC's goal to create a product set that manages virtual machines in the cloud from the same pane of glass as virtual machines are being managed on premises. Right now, it only seeks to manage VMs created by VMware's ESX Server hypervisor on premises, and Amazon Machine Images, created under Amazon's variation of the open source Xen hypervisor, in the EC2 cloud but does so from the same console.

The product set manages the creation of Amazon virtual machines, as if they were local resource, but it does not tap into other Amazon Web Services, such as S3 permanent storage or temporary Elastic Block Storage for running virtual machines.

"We can see extending capabilities to S3 and ESB," Van Hook said, but offered no timeframe when BMC would do so.

Van Hook said BMC will watch for greater use of Microsoft's Hyper-V and Citrix Systems XenServer and consider supporting them as well but has set no timetable to do so. Likewise, it's willing to support operations in other clouds but right now, "Amazon is the mindshare leader."

Van Hook said BMC realizes it is early to be adding hybrid cloud-handling capabilities to its product line. "Enterprise IT is treading carefully on public cloud capabilities…" Hybrid cloud users will be found "only on the leading edge," he said.

The Atrium Configuration Management Database is priced at $100,000 per instance. Atrium Orchestration starts at $100,000. BladeLogic Operations Manager is sold usually in a bundle with other products that are typically priced from $250,000-$500,000. BMC Service Request Management begins at $25,000.

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About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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