BMC Helix Discovery Review

The initial setup is amazingly straightforward because the entire system is provided as a virtual deployment

What is our primary use case?

BMC Discovery for our customers is a tool that you can put in your data center to discover all the different data center tooling for servers, physical or virtual, storage, etc. Or, BMC offers a cloud-based solution, which can also do the same level detail in your data center. In addition, it now has the features to be able to go and discover things on Azure, AWS, GCloud, etc.

How has it helped my organization?

If a customer has a spread out enterprise support center, then maybe they have a main data center, a backup data center, and a colocation, so they need to be able to know what's in each environment without having to go to five or six teams, like the network or storage team.

Having one solution, one pane glass, saying, "Here is what's in A, B and C." It helps with a level of capacity management decision-making, "Do we need to grow this solution? Do we need to reduce this solution?" It helps with understanding disaster recovery and business continuity. "If we lose data center B are we still okay?" In terms of supporting our application and our customers who use these applications.

One of the customer areas that I deal with is healthcare. One of our customers had split their electronic health records system across three data centers, and they needed to make sure that each module of the EHR was still up and functional regardless of what was going on. So, our Discovery solution was able to go into the data center and show all the different pieces which made up that software, then where that was in terms of if they were doing virtual server migrations and being able to track the assets related to all that to show a service model. This helped a number of areas: financial management, disaster planning, in the areas of general change management, and recording incidents against the service.

What is most valuable?

  1. It is agentless, which means you don't have to install anything on all the different pieces of hardware that you are looking to discover.
  2. It now comes with a very flexible deployment solution, whether you want to keep it inside your data center or want to have the cloud, depending on if you're cloud forward or not.
  3. The speed at which it's able to collect a wide-range of information, then make it useful for you, like asset management, knowledge management, and incident management. 

Those would probably be the three main tenants of why Discovery is valuable to a customer.

What needs improvement?

I would like to see the ability to scan some of the newer cloud platforms. I know that BMC has them on the roadmap, and they are coming soon, but they can't come fast enough. Being able to scan more of GCloud, Alibaba Cloud, or whatever the public clouds that our customers are buying, we need to make sure that Discovery can find them as well.

There should be more education to the customer that while you can set this tool up and walk away from it, just like any other IT tool, it requires care and feeding as your environment grows and your technology library scales out. You need to sit down and think about how do you manage your asset library. Sure, you can collect everything, but is there a business case for everything you're collecting? Maybe there is some rudimentary training, or some rudimentary thought leadership, which needs to be provided around it. Because while you can discover everything, it doesn't mean you should.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is great in the sense that it comes in two different versions. There is the standard scanner, then there's the Collector. 

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

With BMC, you're allowed to deploy in an on-premise solution, or even a cloud-based solution, with as many as are necessary. Therefore, being able to scale up or scale down, depending on the size of your environment or migration of environments, is very flexible.

Let's say that you started with one data center, and you have outgrown it, or maybe you're going from data center to a fledgling cloud deployment. Being able to scale up across those is really the key factor of the way BMC designed the Discovery tool. Because it comes in a scanning tool and a consolidation tool, you can put as many scanning out as you need, and if there are maybe specific firewall rules and you need to scale up to yet another system, you needed to scale out over the WAN to another data center, or to cloud, you have that ability. It's not going to introduce a large hindrance into your environment or to your admins to be able to support it.

How are customer service and technical support?

I have not used the technical support.

As a partner, we are able to provide the technical support for our customers. So, being able to either provide implementation, best-practice consulting on an existing solution, or we even offer a level of manage services. For example, if a customer for some reason, either through downsizing or depth of knowledge, needs somebody to run it entirely for them, we have the ability.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Customers decide to invest in a solution because a number of different reasons:

  1. They want to support the work they have already been doing in their operations or service management by having an automated tool that on a regularly scheduled basis goes out and says "What's in the data center? How's it configured?"
  2. Sometimes, they use it for security configuration management, making sure that all the patch levels are on the right thing. 

It just depends on the maturity of the IT service management and the operations management of where they start to see value in knowing what and how it's configured inside their environment.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is amazingly straightforward because BMC provides the entire system as a virtual deployment. So, it comes as a VMware appliance, then your data center admin, or whoever it is, can actually just import the system and apply a static IP address, then the system is already installed and up and ready to go. I don't know of any other system that comes as packaged as well as this.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

If a colleague, or even a customer, is sort of entering the idea that they are looking at Discovery, the first thing is BMC offers a trial. You can find a hundred endpoints. It is very low-impact to download and input it in a development environment.

Try it out. If you need further insights, you can go to BMC. Make sure you understand your use cases and business cases before you implement something like this. Know why you are trying to collect this specific attribute of this specific server and put it in your CMBD. If you don't have a use case for the information, there's no point in building up large amounts of data if you don't have a reason to.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Our customers do like to have that proof-in-the-pudding test, whether it's going beyond just the general demo, having us come onsite, implementing the solution in front of them, then running a level of Discovery with them. There is no better test of a Discovery tool, or an asset management tool, then to go to a customer and say "Here you go. This is what we found on your data center."

The competition is from Microsoft System Center. While it is agent-based, it has a level of being able to look at Windows systems just like BMC Discovery would. However, it does lack the ability to go into network devices and Linux systems.

The other one that we see in the market is a solution from ServiceNow called Discovery, which is still a fledgling solution. However, in another five to ten years, it might give BMC Discovery a run for its money.

From what I've heard and I've seen, the BMC Discovery solution has been in the market for over 15 years. The library of things that you can discover without having to make a custom pattern is very vast. It grows each month. BMC works with Microsoft, HPE, and all those different companies to make sure that the library is up-to-date and is all-inclusive as possible. Along with that, being able to scale to meet the demands of custom-made solutions and the ability to integrate with other BMC technologies, and even non-BMC technologies.

One of the things that sometimes people forget is the BMC Discovery tool can integrate with any CMDB. It's not just for RMDB. 

What other advice do I have?

Whenever a customer says "I wish the solution had the ability to find this device," I can generally say "Well, it can." That's why I'm so proud that BMC sells this tool and I'm able to provide it. It's because whenever a customer says "Can you find this? Can it discover this?" Yes, it can. I have very little experience where a customer has asked me "Can you find this," and I'm not able to find it.

In terms of the tools that BMC sells and tools like this on the market, there is no match. It is a ten out of ten.

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor. The reviewer's company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.
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