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The Day of Systems Management Briefings: Verseria and BMC Service Desk Express

I spent a large portion of the day doing two briefings with systems management folks: Versiera, from NetCraft, and BMC’s Magic folks on the topic of BMC Service Desk Express. Both were quite interesting, and more detailed briefing notes will follow.

In the mean time, here are some quick-thoughts and meta-notes:

Versiera from NetCraft Communications

They’re a hosted systems management company that also provides an appliance. They offer an agent based system with “the brain” hosted in the cloud. So, you download and install their agents and log into their public portal to configure and track everything. Their apporach is much more service based than box based: that is, they’re concerned with looking at your infrastructure as a whole instead of hunting down every single metric and parameter.

This has the advantage of simplicity, but you can’t got get, for example, Verseria for WebSphere and install it: you just monitor the performance, uptime, and inventory/assets that they provide. We talked extensibly, of course, about extending that functionality with a more open, or even open source, agent platform.

They also have many “advanced” features like checking for boxes being in compliance — I expect them to have this, this, and this application installed, and not this version of an application — and creating dynamic groups (think smart playlists in iTunes).

At the moment, my impression is that they definitely lean their focus more towards technology, which they seem quite competent in. But, as they’ve just released today, essentially, they’re starting to get more business and market-y.

In my book, that’s great. I’ve been using Verseria for a few days — nothing too heavy — and it has a nice interface and concepts. In all honesty, if you were just looking for entry level monitoring and basic management (restarting boxes), it looks like it’d work out fine. For being 1.0, they cover a wide range of platforms: Windows, Solaris, numerous Linux distributions, and even OS X, Intel and PPC.

They’re worth looking at if you’re in the market for simple (as in, not overly-complex) hosted way of monitoring and managing your infrastructure. Their future projects, as I’ll go over in the briefing note, are interesting as well. Also, if you’re in the systems management biz, or interested in it as I am, then you should absolutely check them out.

In either case, it’s free to create and account and even download agents to install, so there’s really zero barriers to entries for just giving Verseria a good tire-kick and even road testing it.

And, be sure to check out the presence of an RSS feed on their news page. Everyone loves that ;>

BMC Service Desk Express from Magic

As most of you, dear readers, know, I used to work at BMC. So, it’s always nice to hear from them. Chris Hughes, the development manager for the newly named BMC Service Desk Express contacted me about getting briefed on the BMC Service Desk Express. BMC is running a pilot/beta of a hosted version, and once it GA’s they’ll also offer it as standard packaged app to run behind the firewall.

Overall, I was pleased with what I saw, and I’ll be checking out my demo account over the next few weeks for a more thorough road test. The big question with any “Express” project inside an enterprise software company is how it gets along technologically and internally with the “enterprise software.” Eric Liszt, the product manager I spoke with, was actually quite frank and open about those potential problems: we had more than “it will just work” discussion about it, which was great.

As Brandon was pointing out at lunch today, I come from the PATROLExpress family, so I know something about the problem of big companies acting less than ideal when it comes to tribal infighting between the SMB and enterprise tribes in a company.

Also, the majority of the content was in the clear — meaning I can talk about it — which is refreshing coming from a big company who’s in the pilot/beta stage of a project.

Hosted Systems Management

More generally, I’m seeing two trends in systems management. It’s not that these trends haven’t been seen before, but rather that the industry seems to be having a new go at them:

  1. Providing systems management and IT service management as a hosted service, or in the SaaS model.
  2. Selling systems management and ITSM applications and suites to small and medium businesses.

The ability to do the second this time around is really enabled by the first (though not exclusively, as my briefing on LikeWise shows).

This, of course, means an uptick in the sheer quantity of systems management vendors and projects out there.

Open Platforms are More Valuable to Users

The core notion that I’ve been prodding and advising people around is creating as open a platform as possible. No matter what size deployment your systems management application has, it’s ultimately a platform for taking care of your network.

As with any platform, opening it up means that value can be added to your platform at run-time: plugins can be added, users can extend interfaces, and even things like exporting data or search results to RSS allow users and third party people to literally make your product more valuable to your customers without your involvement. Indeed, that’s part of the advantage of open source, minus the altruistic swath of concerns…unless you want those as well.

Systems management platforms are typically closed and proprietary. The Big 4 come from the old school of profiting from lock-in and silo architectures. So, really, that’s exactly the weakness that new go’s at systems management need to target. By their nature, the open source systems management folks are doing this, and the majority of the “closed” or “less open” source companies, including The Big 4, should be doing this as well. To be fair, many of them are, but there’s always more room to push.

Disclaimer: BMC is a client.

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Categories: Enterprise Software, Open Source, Systems Management.

Comment Feed

4 Responses

  1. Feel free to hook up with either eric or me for demo/tutorials. If you are interested I’ll also show you how we dogfood the system for our development backlog and defect tracking!

  2. I’ll take you up on that offer soon. I liked what I saw; I’m a fool for hosted/SaaS offerings, as you know. The Windows IE only for the admin tool is what’s been holding me back for setting up my demo account. I need to steal Kim’s ThinkPad for a few minutes one night and get it setup 😉

  3. I was recently deployed to two large companies that used Magic. They refused to upgrade. But now I have just started a new job at a company that is using a home grown ticketing system. They need to get on the band wagon with the BMC Service Desk Express v9. It will for sure get things stream lined in the company. What is this demo you are talking about. Can I be apart of this so that I can better provide information and examples of what the package will do for them. Please email with more info.

    [email protected]

  4. Andrew: sure, I just emailed the BMC folks with you in the CC. Good luck, tell us how it goes 😉