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.