Hydro Quebec organizes IT asset tracking

Hydro Quebec is pulling the plug on the mishmash of configurations, processes and terminologies that have characterized its IT systems with the deployment of a business services management solution that will automate the discovery of people, processes and technologies across the entire organization.

The product, BMC Atrium CMDB 2.0 from BMC Software, is designed to give customers a view of their assets, users and business processes, as well as the impact of any changes to IT, through automated discovery tools.

“Our technology aligns business with IT,” says Bernie Goicoechea, country manager, BMC Canada. “If I want to make some changes in my company, say to get better response time or bring in a new customer or line of business, I want to make sure IT can support me. What we do is, as opposed to IT being just a cost centre or a black hole, we bring IT and the business together so it’s seen as a profit centre and a competitive advantage.”

Joseph Romano, IT co-ordinator and developer for Hydro Quebec, says his organization is rolling out version 1.1 of BMC’s configuration management database software in June, in an eight-month process that will be followed by the deployment of the most recently released version of the CMDB software as an antidote to the technological Tower of Babel that resulted from the homemade discovery systems the department put together over the years.

“The whole major IT department built those 12 specific units and a few legacy systems were built by some of the departments, which were then shared,” he explains. One of the resulting problems was that each department used its own terminology for the configurations and processes of those systems.

“So by deploying a CMDB with a configuration and common terminology between all the departments, this will permit all the units of over 200 people to have common terminology and understand what the expectations are and what the configuration is to be able to give customers better service,” Romano says.

As well, he adds, when he worked in the wholesale department if there were interventions from specific servers or specific applications on the same servers, it wasn’t always clear what the impact would be on new departments. “Because we’re in the energy business, there are new departments coming in on line that address specific needs, like wholesale, power sale and soon regional power sales, and these departments have different needs,” he says.

By putting a tool in place, the IT department is going to be able to better manage each customer’s specific needs rather than put everybody in the same pot, he says. It will also be able to charge back according to the service rendered, rather than charging all departments an average cost.

“Now if certain departments need 24-hour service on certain applications and not on other ones, they’re going to be charged on their usage; we’ll be able to give that feedback better than we used to,” says Romano.

Hydro Quebec will be using the software for its servers, server components and applications. There is also project underway to include PCs in the future.

According to Goicoechea, BMC Atrium CMDB 2.0 includes deeper levels of integration, an updated architecture, improved federation capabilities, definitive software library deployment, graphical data views for all applications, and improved data reconciliation.

New in this release of the software is identity discovery, which provides a window onto various aspects of user information and how they’re accessing various applications. As well, the business process piece allows users to bring into the database documentation on business processes and the systems they’re touching so they can model their IT environment.

“What we’re bringing to our customers is the ability to have the co-ordination of the automatic discovery, which will let the solutions update the CMDB and discover those assets automatically,” he says. “Therefore, we think the number of errors they’d make by not doing it correctly or by assets not being distributed or deployed correctly through an enterprise” will be reduced.

Andrej Vlahcevic, solutions marketing manager for BMC Canada, says a lot of change management and monitoring tools have existed for years at help desks. “What’s new is thinking about how to deploy and manage and them and tie them together,” he says. “The ability to bring in more and more types of devices such as mainframes and storage devices is critical, because if you don’t have that information in an automated way, the reality is IT organizations can’t keep it up to date manually — it just doesn’t work.”

Unlike many IT expenditures, selling CFOs on investing in business service management software is not such an uphill grind, says Goicoechea. “They can see the hard dollar justifications pretty quickly.”

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