Service Management Blog

Addicted to the Data – Five ways Discovery can feed your addiction

Andrew McCall
5 minute read
Andrew McCall


I have been working on building and testing the BMC Discovery product since early 2004, and to this day I still get excited about what it is capable of doing. The rich and accurate data it gathers from any deployment, large or small still astounds me.

I am permitted to explore the Discovery instances that are scanning the BMC environment. Taking a stroll around the discovered data is very addictive – more than once I found myself so “zoned in” on an exploration that I had missed my normal train home. Sometimes the discoveries you make are purely academic, but more often than not there is real business value to what you find. It is these serendipitous discoveries that led me to write this blog post.

There follows a list of five things that BMC Discovery can do for you that may not have been immediately obvious, but are nonetheless highly valuable.

1. It knows what you are not scanning
How can you possibly be confident in managing your infrastructure if you don’t know what you have? This is the fundamental question that drives anyone to look at automatic discovery in the first place. But once you have BMC Discovery in place and are happily scanning all the things you know about, how can you be sure that you haven’t missed something?  What about that remote site with its own local server room?  How can you be sure that BMC Discovery is scanning all the new ranges you acquired as part of a recent merger or acquisition?

Happily, there are capabilities within BMC Discovery to help you here.  Out of the box reports identify systems you are scanning, but that you do not have access to.  Perhaps more interestingly it can also tell you about all the IP ranges you are not scanning, but which are connecting to the systems you do have in BMC Discovery. Those IPs may represent key assets that your ITOM teams are simply not aware of.

2. Reduce security threats and minimize risk
Security is top of mind for most IT professionals these days. It seems as though not a day goes by without news of yet another data breach, or hack attempt. BMC Discovery data is critical in helping you understand where your weak points are and whether business applications are running on vulnerable systems. Out of the box reports allow you to identify unpatched systems and locate servers that are listening on unwanted service ports. Most recently BMC Discovery data has also been enriched with Common Platform Enumeration (CPE) information provided by the National Vulnerability Database. This assists security operations in identifying dependencies associated to vulnerabilities.

Security vulnerabilities pose one threat to the business but it doesn’t stop there. BMC Discovery data easily helps you identify other key risk areas.

  • Understanding where out of support, or soon to be out of support software or operating systems exist.
  • Reduce version sprawl
  • Locate servers that are running out of storage capacity
  • Eliminate gaps in anti-virus or automation agent coverage by finding systems missing key software

3. Survive the Zombie Apocalypse
As April McPherson said in her earlier blog post “Avoiding the Zombie (Server) Apocalypse in Healthcare,” BMC Discovery data allows IT departments to identify and eliminate unused or underused servers. Not only are these zombies drawing power and creating heat, they might also be running licensable software that, if identified in a vendor audit, could result in serious financial penalties. So, how can BMC Discovery help you here? One thing to realize is that rarely will a single metric be enough to identify the zombies. Typically, you would combine various techniques to build a hit-list, and then use this data to work with key stakeholders in ridding yourself of the zombies. One useful starting point is to look for servers with very few network connections to other systems – if nothing is talking to a particular server, chances are it is not really providing a useful function. BMC Discovery handily buckets servers by the average numbers of network connections observed over time. Combine that with information about the software running on those servers (or lack of it) and pretty soon you begin to zero in on the underutilized or unwanted ones.

4. Power of Patterns
Out of the box, BMC Discovery identifies a huge range of software and configuration data – coverage is expanding and deepening every month with each successive Technology Knowledge Update (TKU) release. Having said that, there will always be some specific project, or business need for which data is discoverable but is not currently available in BMC Discovery out of the box.  Fear not, with Patterns (written in TPL), BMC Discovery can be extended to gather pretty much anything you need – assuming it is accessible via a means already enabled. This opens up very interesting possibilities.  For example, the team responsible for operating BMC Discovery could cross-charge other business units to gather data in support of specific projects.  One such example that crossed my radar recently was a customer who needed to understand their Product Key Infrastructure infrastructure in more detail.  Using TPL based patterns, this information was discovered and provided to the project – a real value-add. Your imagination is pretty much the limit here – before you plan on assigning a team of people to manually gather information about your IT assets, ask yourself this question – could BMC Discovery be configured to get it for me?

5. Dynamic models
With the release of BMC Discovery version 11, the process of building comprehensive application models, starting anywhere within your data, became as simple as drawing a line around the bits you care about. The power of an application model is clear as it informs so many other ITOM processes. You may have thought that these application models are static, and while a static model is initially pretty useful, very quickly it will rot and become less and less relevant. Worse than that, a static model could be actively harmful – a flawed view of the world can be more dangerous than no view at all. Good thing therefore that application models built with BMC Discovery are dynamic!

What does that mean? Well, let us say for example that you have modeled a typical three-tier application that is comprised of an application layer, a web layer and a database layer. The model has been defined and published to your CMDB – everyone is happy. But then the world moves on. Unbeknownst to the application modeler, a helpful IT lady notices that the existing web servers are becoming a little overloaded, and she deploys a new instance to spread the load. Without a dynamic application model, this new dependency might go unnoticed for days, weeks or it may never be noticed. Thankfully BMC Discovery automatically detects new dependencies and automatically includes the new web server in the application model. Now should an incident be raised against the application, those investigating it can use accurate, automatically up to date data.

If you already have BMC Discovery deployed you may, like me, already be on the path to a full-blown data addiction. Alternatively, you may be sitting on a gold-mine of actionable data that is just waiting to make you a hero. If you haven’t already deployed BMC Discovery already, well – I hope this has given you a taste of what you, and your business, can do immediately with Discovery!

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These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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About the author

Andrew McCall

Andrew McCall

Andy McCall, Director Product Development, is responsible for all R&D for BMC Discovery and BMC Helix Client Management. Based out of London UK, Andy has 16 years of experience in enterprise software development and came to BMC as a part of the acquisition of Tideway Systems. With a background in QA he has been working in the discovery space since 2004 with previous experience in OSS.