I was at the BMC User World conference in Lisbon last Tuesday, trying to figure ot where BMC is going, specifically in the field of identity management. After all, BMC's presence in that segment has been surprisingly low-key since several months. Last year, BMC was to be found at every major identity-related conference. Jeff Bohren, BMC's identity guru was very active in the standardisation efforts around provisioning services and in the identity blogger's community, and BMC was marked as one of the larger players in the identity space.

Ever since, Jeff Bohren has left BMC to join Sunview Software. From what we at Kuppinger Cole noticed here in Europe was that BMC's complete identity management pre-sales team in the UK and Germany left around that time frame as well. It didn't take a conspiracy theorist to figure out that something was up. Had BMC decided to follow HP and quietly discontinue its products, or integrate them in a broader environment? That's what my colleague Martin asked me to find out, and besides this was in "my turf" - right in Lisbon!

I scheduled a session with BMC's CTO Tom Bishop and we discussed BMC's vision and what the outlook for identity management is at BMC.

First of all: BMC is refocusing towards a new strategy around Business Service Management (BSM) and Business Service Automation. Identity plays an important part in a BSM-enabled ecosystem. BSM wasn't something I was very aware of, but it made a fascinating topic. Therfore, I wanted to share some interesting background information that we received during the keynotes, and especially later in the break-out sessions from Tom himself.

In order to make the case for Business Service Management, an interesting statistic from IDG was presented. With higher complexity of IT systems, the cost of managing these systems also goes up. That should come as no surprise. As virtualisation and SOA becomes more adopted, the amount of systems rise even further and complexity increases even more. What does that mean for enterprises? Well, increased server management and administration costs for one, plus additional power and cooling costs (virtualisation obviously help mitigate the latter two, but again, more system management overhead). So are IT budgets due to increase? That is the last thing enterprises want to hear! So something's gotta give, or things need to work more efficiently. Can IT run more efficiently? You bet, says BMC's Tom Bishop. After all, after making every aspect of a business more efficient by automation, the IT departments are usually the largest places of manual labour to be found in any enterprise. Ironic, isn't it?

BMC believes that there is a huge potential to automate the way that IT departments are being run, and is implementing its vision of Business Service Automation to offer its customers a complete solution to do just that. Business Service Automation, according to BMC's vision, provides an integration layer to unify the "patchwork" of existing solutions that revolve around the provisioning of systems and software as well as the compliance with internal IT controls. (BTW here the words "provisioning" and "compliance" are used outside of the identity management context). WIth BMC Atrium technology as a central component, and driven by a change management database (CMDB), service support, assurance and automation are integrated, unified and simplified. This drives down maintenance and systems management costs significantly (once you discount the price to pay for the BMC solution, presumably), and allows an enterprise's IT landscape to grow whilst keeping the management costs at par.

My head was spinning and I was impressed at the same time. I did manage to regain my composure however and had the opportunity to quiz Tom Bishop directly on the future of identity management in BMC's overall strategy. What is happening with the product line, and why does it seem that BMC has retreated from that space? Tom mentioned that last year, BMC had several business units, out of which Identity Management was one - complete with a presales team. Now that has been reshuffled however, and BMC sees identity as a piece of the overall Business Service Management strategy, and will therefore continue to integrate its identity management products seamlessly within this structure. However, BMC will cease to push "stand-alone" identity management products as it has done before. Customers can still buy the existing products as stand-alone solution, but BMC will focus on the automation and overall integrated approach to service automation.

I tried to prod a bit to see whether there was any indication that BMC might try to fill some of the previous gaps in its "suite", such as the missing federation piece. Here both Tom and I were caught in the ambiguity trap that opens when the words "federation", or even "provisioning" are used by people of different technology domains. We identity management folks think about something completely different when we mention "federation". Tom was thinking on how the change database approach could be used in a federated approach to integrate different services. I later tried to find out whether it was necessary to buy BMC's identity management components to integrate with the Atrium software and the Business Services Management stack that BMC offers. I did not get a clear answer. Apparently the integrated BSM solution is able to detect when new users join and leave the organisation and an automatic provisioning of software and other services can be configured. Nobody could explain to me however whether or how this could be integrated within a non-BMC identity management - although I am sure that this will be possible, given that it may not be palatable for future customers to install yet another identity provisioning system aside an already running solution that has already been deployed - especially considering the pain and hard work that goes with deploying such systems!

So at least now it's official! BMC is no longer a player in the traditional identity management market but is instead transforming its offerings to provide an all-integrated approach to automate IT through business service automation and management. Existing customers are still supported, and the products are maintained, but customers will have to look elsewhere for comprehensive identity management solutions, or at least buy the "missing pieces" from other vendors more active in the "pure" identity management sector.