BMC brings SmartDBA to the mainframe

BMC Software Inc. will soon release the first of its SmartDBA tools for IBM Corp.’s DB2 mainframe database, marking what it called a significant milestone in its effort to provide a single console for managing mixed database environments.

The goal is to help companies save money by reducing the need to have specialists manage each of their database platforms. Instead, a database administrator will be able to manage different types of databases from a single, Web-based console, which BMC calls its SmartDBA console. Rival tools vendor Quest Software Inc. is pursuing a similar initiative.

BMC has already rolled out SmartDBA tools for IBM’s DB2 Universal Database, as well as for databases from Oracle Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Sybase Inc. In mid-November it plans to deliver the first SmartDBA component for the mainframe version of DB2, said Bill Miller, vice-president and general manager of BMC’s enterprise data management group.

The component is called DBXRay and will provide a snapshot of the overall health of a database. It comes as part of an upgrade to BMC’s System Performance for DB2 toolset, version 2.1. BMC plans to roll out other SmartDBA tools for DB2, as well as for IMS, IBM’s other mainframe database, over the rest of this year and next, said Bill Arledge, a BMC consulting product manager.

One analyst said SmartDBA is gaining traction among customers.

“The reason it’s popular is that people have different types of databases, and they don’t want to have the same number of experts managing those different databases, so they’re looking for tools that abstract away some of the specialization you need,” said Jasmine Noel, principal analyst at JNoel Associates, a Boston-based consultancy.

The SmartDBA console is intuitive to use for someone who’s familiar with previous versions of BMC’s management tools, she added.

However, selling a common tools interface to mainframe database administrators (DBAs) may prove challenging. Mainframe DBAs tend to see themselves as a breed apart from those running distributed databases on Unix, Windows and Linux, Noel said.

“Traditionally these folks never talk to each other. They say, ‘You don’t know what a real database is like till you’ve worked on a mainframe.’ That sort of attitude prevails, and it can’t continue to prevail,” she said.

In fact, BMC has moved cautiously with its mainframe tools, trying to make sure it doesn’t compromise the quality of the products as it brings them into the SmartDBA fold. About three-quarters of BMC’s revenue from data management products comes from its mainframe business, Miller said.

“We’ve got a lot of loyal mainframe customers and we need to make sure we do it right,” he said.

BMC isn’t alone in its ambitions. Quest Software is also gunning for the single console approach. Its expertise has traditionally been in distributed environments, while BMC began as a mainframe player and moved to the distributed world. On the mainframe side it competes with tools from IBM and Computer Associates International Inc., among others.

BMC’s project to offer a single management environment was originally called Project Golden Gate, but it had to drop that name in order not to confuse customers after it struck a close partnership recently with data synchronization vendor GoldenGate Inc.

Along with its first SmartDBA tool for mainframes, BMC will announce a handful of other upgraded products next week, officials said. They are the following:

– Database Administration for DB2 Version 2.2, which can manage large binary objects (LOBs) of 32KB or greater, making it easier to manage applications containing large objects, such as videos or pictures, according to BMC.

– Application Performance for DB2 Version 2.1, which includes a number of performance and usability enhancements.

– SmartDBA Performance Solution for DB2 UDB Version 2.6, which adds support for 64-bit DB2 UDB environments and improved administration features, among other enhancements, BMC said.