Today's focus:  Mergers, acquisitions and the CMDB

By Dennis Drogseth

The topic for this column combines two gorilla-level subjects
demanding my attention: mergers and acquisitions on the one
hand, and implementations of the IT Infrastructure Library's
Configuration Management Database (CMDB) on the other.

The former have occupied my attention because, well, they just
"keep on keeping on" and because they're certainly changing the
enterprise management landscape. The latter is occupying my
attention because Enterprise Management Associates is finishing
up the second in a series of reports on the CMDB, looking at
vendor and IT implementations.

The CMDB would be a common trusted repository of information
involving configuration, topology and service relationships in
support of a whole host of management disciplines and
applications. Like mergers and acquisitions, industry CMDB
initiatives are also beginning to change the enterprise
landscape in some significant ways.

These initiatives are bringing together very distinctive
communities of vendors, ranging from platforms and frameworks
that, yes, will compete to be the center of the CMDB universe,
to vendors focused on application service discovery, such as
Collation, nLayers and Tideway; to service catalog vendors such
as Centrata; to business service management vendors such as
Managed Objects; to network and systems change and configuration
vendors, such as BladeLogic, Opsware, Configuresoft and Ecora;
and AlterPoint, Intelliden and Voyence. The initiatives will
also touch help desk vendors, asset management vendors and
lifecycle application development and planning vendors.

In the best of all possible worlds (don't hold your breath for
at least 10 years on all of this being real) - it will enable a
modular, federated approach to integrating different types of
data stores in a single, cohesive, trusted system for
understanding the health and state of critical business
services. And it will do this across changes in configuration,
topological dependencies, asset and contractual information,
customer information, policies (business, operational, security,
compliance), and the health and availability of all service

This federated system should, moreover, be dynamically current,
administratively light and support virtually all management
disciplines and applications with consistent, current and
accurate information. And it will allow for multi-brand choice
in a modular way.

I did say in the "best of all possible worlds," right?

Well, needless to say, a truly workable approach to the CMDB in
the near term would require narrowing the focus to make "doable"
chunks. It also would require collaboration among vendors
(witness Collation working with Compuware, nLayers with Managed
Objects, Peregrine with Mercury, etc.).

Most vendors supporting the CMDB direction are designing for
multi-brand integration from the start, sensing that one of the
best ways to lose the CMDB wars is to announce, "We can do it
all!" This can be an affront to buyers (many of whom,
nevertheless, do want to start with a single core brand) - as
well as an R&D nightmare.

CMDB initiatives might inspire acquisitions in that vendors may
simply pursue a strategy to go out and acquire all meaningful
CMDB components - but that's not happening, at least not yet.
Although it's true that, for instance, HP's acquisition of
Novadigm and BMC's acquisition of Marimba could directly support
CMDB directions, it would probably be a stretch to assume that
CMDB was the primary motivating factor. Mercury's acquisition of
Appilog may seem a little more directly related. And certainly,
the future may see a number of such moves - even if, in the best
of all worlds, CMDB strategies really should favor multi-brand

The other connection between CMDB and merger activity is a new
attention to structure and architecture that truly is beginning
to transform the enterprise management marketplace.

The old-fashioned approach to product development, focused on a
checklist of functions with element-centric products and minimal
levels of integration and consistency, is finally coming to an
end. It is and always was a failing strategy. But in all
fairness many of the enabling technologies - for more effective
data gathering, data transformation, discovery, topology,
configuration, data store, analytics, visualizations and
automated actions - were really not in place in the mid to late
'90s when most grand framework initiatives collapsed from their
own weight.

There's still a long way to go - but if you look at that list of
functions and reinterpret the management marketplace
accordingly, you'll see more signs of progress than you might
have expected. That's where the notion of the CMDB is coming
together with smarter, better acquisitions.

Smarter vendors are looking for structural as well as
market-centric investments. The CMDB is one type of initiative,
no matter how far-reaching, that reflects another even larger
requirement: architectural and functional solidarity. This,
rather than raw cut-and-paste market building, will represent
the future of enterprise management growth.

HP's multiple acquisitions in 2004 were almost all driven by
this broader requirement. NetScout's acquisition of Quantiva was
a clearly an investment in "analytics" coupled with NetScout's
strong visualization and data gathering. CA gets powerful
root-cause diagnostics, among other enabling capabilities,
through Concord-Aprisma.

This list goes on, and it is just the beginning. The CMDB is
perhaps the most visible symbol of these building-block
requirements - and as such it is a fitting herald of a new, more
structurally aware and consolidating marketplace.


Configuration management databases take center stage
Network World Network/Systems Management Newsletter, 01/10/05

CA snaps up Concord
Network World Fusion, 04/11/05

HP snaps up mgmt. software companies
Network World, 02/09/04

BMC stakes claim to Marimba
Network World Fusion, 04/29/04

Copyright Network World, Inc., 2005

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Copyright 2008 Art Beckman. All rights reserved.

Last Modified: March 9, 2008