Why do I now have to do Application Modelling… again?

Featured Image: CC BY 2.0 zeitfaenger.at@flickr.

This article was first published by Wes Fitzpatrick on LinkedIn (5th Sept 2014). It has been edited and updated.

This is a variation on a question I was asked often as a consultant during workshops for new customers using BMC Discovery.

For the last few years Discovery has had CAM (Collaborate Application Modelling) and more recently they have introduced ‘Start Anywhere Application Modelling’ (no acronym, but why not SAAM?). Of the former my unfiltered opinion is that it’s shite, plain and simple. I’ve attempted to use it on occasion but have always had trouble getting it to present exactly what I was expecting. Of the latter, it looks very nice and shows promise, unfortunately I haven’t had much time to play with it. However, regarding SAAM, what looked like a new approach to modelling using the open standard JSON, quickly got locked up and it appears that you can only really create Application Models for the specific appliance you are working on – another missed opportunity if you ask me!

Perhaps I’m just old-hat and set in my ways, I know my opinion on CAM is not alone, but I have come across other less experienced users who are happy with it. But nothing can currently beat the flexibility and versatility of using TPL and building patterns. Of course, this comes with the cost of training and/or hiring someone who can program using TPL.

So what is ‘TPL’?

TPL is a mixture of programming and a markup language – for someone with no exposure to programming at all this can be a steep learning curve that simply can’t be covered in just 1 or 2 days of training labs. Many people I’ve spoken to have come away from a Discovery training course feeling that they just didn’t get enough of the application mapping part of the course, and consequently have had to outsource application modelling anyway.

BMC brought out CAM to address this problem, but as I’ve indicated above, it was a steaming turd for most users. They’ve now attempted to remedy this with SAAM – as I’ve said, it’s a much better step in the right direction, but now we’ve lost the ability to replicate and share! Other companies are out there – our friends at Tekwurx have uControl – which offers a simple to use UI, and Traversys can offer you a comprehensive in depth introduction to TPL, either with some one-on-one remote sessions or with downloadable course material you can learn at our own pace.

But why doesn’t Discovery do this automatically?

Well, the answer BMC – and I myself – might give you, is that Business Applications typically represent the ‘custom’ or ‘service’ part of the business. Discovery will automatically get you the components such as databases, web servers and other middleware, but what it can’t tell you is what underlying service these components support. Only you (or the business) know which database is depended upon by which app server, which in turn supports which service. Furthermore, although communication is automatically discovered e.g. from database to web server, only you or the business knows what communications are relevant and critical. In such, to model a monitoring application, you don’t necessarily need to include every agent installed.

An analogy might be buying an expensive piece of software for your home PC like Adobe Photoshop. Now you have the tool and all the plugins which will allow you to tweak your photos and images to perfection – but what Photoshop can’t provide is the actual expertise and the changes you want to make. That task is down to you to do yourself – or to hire an expert to tweak your photos.

BMC Discovery is still a ‘best in class’ tool which gives you a complete picture of your estate along with the ability extend and tweak beyond it’s core functionality. Few other discovery tools on the market are as open, allowing you to see exactly how something was inferred and giving you complete control over your data. However, like expensive imaging software, unless you know what you’re trying to accomplish and how to use it, you need to become an expert, purchase additional software, or hire an expert to get the most out of it.

If managed correctly, the extra cost of 3rd party software, training or professional services should pay for itself in the savings seen to the business through identifying critical dependencies, security risks, server consolidation opportunities, licensing audits and storage management.

Talk to us today about getting some training on TPL.

Disco Enhancements Browser Extension version 1.3 Released

This release contains a rework of the back-end code to make the extension work with version 11.2 as well as maintaining a fluid experience in both version 10.2 and 11.0/1. It’s actually an improvement in the code, I’ve managed to tidy it up and remove some messy workarounds but not all of them. So the extension does throw up some console errors, but from a user perspective it’s unnoticeable.

It’s a continual game of catch-up with BMC as they tweak their interface for BMC Discovery even on minor releases. Version 11.2 is no exception – the banner has changed, and some CSS form elements ID’s have changed.

To accommodate the CSS changes, the Generic Search Query box has been moved to the top of the page content and expanded. My own experience with copying and pasting queries caused me to find the smaller box more limiting – and of course it makes support across 3 versions of Discovery easier.

The extension has been tested on Firefox in unsigned mode and works without any tweaking. However attempting to upload it for signing to AMO did alert me to errors in the manifest (Chrome Web Store seemed to accept it with the Mozilla required ‘ applications’ key). I guess I’ll have to create a duplicate repository with a separate manifest after all.

There is the thorny security issue around using insertAdjacentHTML(), see this:

if (xhttp.readyState == 4 && xhttp.status == 200) {
  pageDiv.insertAdjacentHTML('afterbegin', xhttp.responseText);

I confess this is hacky workaround to get it to pass some html from a text file to the page. Mozilla security will reject this. I’m not yet smart enough to know how to implement a workaround…. more late night studying ahead for release 1.4 I suspect.

A premium version will be on it’s way. This will add the possibility to view and run the last query under the Generic Search Query box, amongst other functionalities. The core version will remain free and all the code will be published under the MIT license on GitHub.

Get the free extension for Chrome.