BMC's great SAN escape

BMC Software shocked the industry and its customers last week by cutting its losses in the SAN management market and stopping production of its Patrol Storage Manager product. The company says it was the right business decision, but will users be left high and dry?

Last year, BMC Software Inc. was at the top of the storage management mountain. Last month, the Houston company released a new version of its flagship storage management product, Patrol Storage Manager. Last week, the company pulled out of the storage market and stopped production on its SAN management tools altogether.

One question: why?

BMC's director of marketing, Dan Hoffmann, said the decision to cease developing the software beyond the current version was a "tough choice."

"We looked at our goals for the upcoming year, looked at all of the different financials and made a judgment call," Hoffmann said.

He added that the people and budgets currently deployed to BMC's storage operation will be redeployed to other parts of BMC's business.

"BMC is in a number of markets, many of which are more profitable than storage," he said. "You'd find that very few companies in this market are profitable."

BMC's final storage management release, Patrol Storage Manager 2.2, has been on the market for less than a month. Customers will receive support for an undisclosed period of time, Hoffmann said, adding that BMC will be "generous" with its support policies.

In a January 2002 report, IT research and analyst firm Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn., placed BMC among the top three vendors in the SAN management software market. At the time, Gartner said the report was not a measure of who had the best product, but rather a measure of overall success.

Gartner said its top picks were the "best positioned" to be in the SAN management software business through 2007. So why did BMC throw in the towel?

Enterprise Storage Group Inc. analyst Nancy Marrone said BMC is not folding the Patrol Storage Manager product entirely. It will still exist and be supported.

According to Marrone, BMC's plan is to put all of its investments into storage resource management software for MainView, which "happens to be selling better for them right now."

"The bottom line is, it seems as though the products weren't performing to [the] corporate level of expectation, so they aren't investing any more into the solution at the moment," Marrone said.

Marrone said that her Milford, Mass.-based firm sees this as a "short-sighted move."

"BMC has a strong solution, but the market for these products has yet to take off, so it's not as though there is another vendor out there taking the lion's share of the market at the moment," Marrone said. "Hopefully, once the market catches up, BMC will see that supporting storage is a crucial part of supporting the overall enterprise.

"In the meantime, customers can still buy the product, but they would need to question the future development in the area of storage management."

Basic SAN management capabilities like device discovery, topology mapping, zone and LUN management, and monitoring and reporting were the norm in the SAN management tools of a year ago. The next wave of functionality -- including more automation, security and service-level management -- is emerging in the market, and BMC had already begun riding that wave along with its competitors.

Last October, the company struck a deal with automation startup Invio Software Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., to incorporate Invio's technology into a new line of software tools built around Patrol Storage Manager. The first product in the line, Patrol Storage Automation-Provisioning, was released in December. Upon its debut, BMC said the offering was the first in a series of new storage management products. That plan has now been scrapped.

Invio Software did not respond to SearchStorage.com's requests for comment.

BMC said Patrol Storage Automation-Provisioning will share the same fate as Patrol Storage Manager and that the decision to pull out of SAN management will impact BMC's alliance with Invio, but the company did not specify how.

"That's not a pleasant transaction, but again, it's business," Hoffmann said.

One of BMC's chief competitors in the systems management market, Computer Associates International Inc., says that BMC is walking away from its storage customers.

"We're not surprised that this is happening," said Marco Coulter, vice president of storage business strategy for CA. "You're going to see a lot more of this."

Coulter said that several systems management companies are getting into storage management and vice versa. "Companies are leaping into storage without an understanding of how to manage the technology," he said.

Let us know what you think about the story. E-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

BMC becomes latest vendor to automate products

Dell implements BMC software in-house

EMC, BMC and Veritas crowned leaders in SAN management

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