IBM, Next Generation Asset Management, and the CMDB

* Why are key vendors taking note of Next Generation Asset Management?

While I am intending this to be just a regular column, trying to give today's topic an adequate headline was tricky given modern tastes for brevity. I do remember, however, that titles were allowed to be more robust in the 17th century and prior - so from that perspective, how's this?: "Some considerations on how IBM's announced definitive acquisition of MRO Software reflects the rising importance of Next Generation Asset Management, and on how NGAM's rise is linked inextricably to the surging interest in CMDB adoption, much like two boats moving forward in parallel might pull each other ahead through a barely visible connecting thread."

Never fear, in spite of the longer title's length, the thoughts here are fairly simple and brief.

First, let's look briefly at IBM's $740 million acquisition of MRO Software. Overall, it's a very smart move by IBM, even if it falls short of being the "end-to-end" asset management story that IBM claims. MRO brings IBM one of the industry's strongest, robust and proven lifecycle asset management solutions, along with some basic service desk and help desk capabilities, including support for such ITIL disciplines as service desk incident and problem management. But MRO's Maximo is primarily strong as a lifecycle asset management system, which evolved from MRO's acquisition of MainControl in 2001.

IBM's acquisition should particularly strengthen its hand in managing software assets from a lifecycle perspective, providing integrated service desk capabilities with existing next-generation features, such as CMDB and discovery. While Maximo has no true chargeback capabilities, IBM's January acquisition of CIMS Labs provides chargeback for virtualized environments with a focus on integrating usage information across systems and database information.

One thing that's not included to any degree yet in IBM's IT asset management offering is full lifecycle support for hardware assets (Maximo has a narrow focus on hardware inventory and discovery) and network-centric asset management. To some degree, this is a "connect-the-dots" challenge for IBM: Maximo includes network devices in its initial inventory and discovery, and Micromuse, which IBM acquired last year, offers some strong foundations for network asset management, particularly in telecommunications or large and complex network environments.

But both IBM and its customers should feel good about the MRO buy as it fills in some critical pieces and positions IBM much more competitively in the NGAM space.

As to the second point in the headline - is NGAM hot? Well, one would think so since merger and acquisition activity is one barometer of vendors recognizing critical needs. IBM's acquisition of MRO follows HP's purchase of Peregrine Systems, Avocent's acquisition of LANDesk and Opsware's acquisition of CreekPath, which provides application-related insights into storage utilization. This list is not meant to be complete, but it does reflect more than a passing interest in an area that, much like the CMDB, has not been particularly well addressed in the media. It's also a trend that's taking shape - in an almost clandestine fashion - as a larger foreshadowing of trends that defy traditional, siloed market categories.

And this brings me to the last point in today's column: the notion that the CMDB and NGAM are moving forwards like two boats joined by a thin thread at the bow, so that when one advances well enough ahead of the other, it automatically pulls the other forward. The reasons for this are not too hard to gauge, but they are possibly quite significant for the future of NGAM and CMDB.

First, NGAM (vs. traditional siloed tools for procurement and TCO), demands structural investments and really can't evolve fully without strong answers for CMDB, discovery and workflow. NGAM is also polymorphic - it requires insights across network, systems, application, operational, service, SLA, and outsourced assets as performers rather than mere passive objects. Finally, NGAM integrates asset and service management - recognizing that the ultimate IT asset is the delivered IT service as it supports the business, and that all other assets relate to their supported services in parent-child manner (in which the service is the parent asset).

All these requirements will naturally push IT adopters towards a CMDB-like initiative in which infrastructure is discovered, documented, mapped to services and managed to support change and configuration control in conformance with policy. The fact that CMDBs can support virtually all management disciplines, and that NGAM, to succeed, needs a similarly polymorphic structure, is also mutually reinforcing. Finally, NGAM provides a relatively low-stress, high-benefit context for embarking on CMDB deployments, with minimal requirements for real-time dynamic control and clear benefits in terms of both capex and ultimately even opex savings.

So there you have it, a short column with a long headline. Plus an explanation for why EMA is so actively pursuing both areas (NGAM and CMDB deployments) in terms of keeping track of user adoptions and providing guidance to IT subscribers in our Solution Centers. I welcome your feedback and thoughts on these two closely related areas - please send me your comments.

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