BMC Aims Downmarket

Systems management has traditionally been the domain of high-end corporate sales. A glance at BMC’s own product description for PATROL sums it best. “PATROL for Enterprise Management provides the business process, enterprise-wide view of your environment. It provides a central point of control for all applications, computers, LANS, WAN and communications devices throughout the enterprise.” These solutions are often overkill or unaffordable for SMEs.

Yet, the emergence of dot coms means that there are a lot of new, small companies with big company computing needs. And in most cases, they probably lack the DBAs or network managers to do it.

That’s in large part the explanation behind the emergence of application service providers, for example. Yet, ASPs alone, only allow aspiring dot coms to export their problems, not necessarily solve them. Emerging dot coms and recently spun-off business units require products and solutions, not just services, to manage their computing requirements.

Software vendors like BMC need opportunities like this to distract from their post-Y2K blues. Like much of the enterprise software industry, 1999 and 2000 have been a tale of two cities. BMC, which grew at a 30% clip last year, just reported its third straight disappointing quarter this year. The September 30 figures showed revenue drops of 7% below the same quarter of last year, with per-share profits coming in at only half of Wall Street’s expectations.

At Oracle OpenWorld, BMC announced the formation of a new business unit, Data One that will have over 300 professionals—including sales and marketing, product development, customer service, and consulting. The new unit’s mission is to come out with simpler, cheaper, almost shrink-wrapped versions of BMC’s PATROL (distributed systems management) products—like WebDBA, a $495/seat product released in the summer that allows DBAs to manage Oracle databases remotely through any HTML web browser.

Aside from WebDBA, DataOne does not yet have any specific products, nor has it firmed up product plans or timelines. So why announce now? According to Anthony Brown, director of marketing for DataOne, “This is a good time give our customers an understanding of where we’re going with our technology,” adding that the Oracle OpenWorld event just happened at the time that they were ready to go public.

(At the show, BMC also announced the acquisition of Sylvain Faust, a Canadian software firm that developed tools for tuning SQL statements, which will also be folded into the new business unit.)

The new DataOne business unit inherits roughly 30 PATROL products covering SQL development, database change management, performance tuning and optimization, maintenance optimization, backup and recovery, and business information management. With the exception of some front end beautification, these products are currently the same PATROL offerings aimed at Global 2000 organizations.

The long-term goal is to come out with integrated solutions aimed at companies scraping by with one or two inexperienced DBAs, who require easy to use solutions with liberal use of preconfigured templates. In most cases, WebDBA will serve as the front end to these new solution sets.

To accelerate products out the door, BMC has begun adopting larger-scale beta testing programs. A program associated with the initial WebDBA release attracted 100 custom,ers. BMC claims that over 2000 customers have volunteered for the next beta phases, aimed at adding new utilities to the WebDBA palette. Although DataOne has not yet announced product plans, BMC promises to begin offering incremental integration between WebDBA and some of these utilities as early as the next 60 days. Among the early targets, BMC will likely address change management first, followed by performance monitoring and maintenance optimization.

BMC’s moves are not surprising. Given that existing enterprise markets have flattened, it has to figure out some way of penetrating smaller organizations that are largely virgin markets. The task is daunting; database management is full of arcane concepts such as disk defragmentation and tablespace reorganization that typically require years of experience to master. In fact, the need for simpler, preconfigured tools extends beyond small organizations, because even large enterprises are having hard times finding experienced DBAs in tight labor markets.

BMC’s moves are hardly unique. On the database side, the recent Sun/Oracle/Veritas alliance to certify specific database/hardware configurations reflects a need that fast-growing enterprises need databases-to-go. In the ERP space, giants like SAP have introduced fast track ASAP programs, which feature liberal pre-configured templates. The difficulty of the task is reflected in the fact that ASPs have struggled to keep customers happy with plain vanilla configurations of enterprise software. Although, at a certain level, databases are more generic, in a distributed computing world, there are always bound to be variations in the way that functions or tables are deployed.

Although Sun et al have recently resisted expanding their database/hardware pre-certification programs, these efforts are the logical place for ventures like BMC’s DataOne to gain traction.