Helpdesk firm banking on web services

Web services are set to really take off and outsourcers will be among the first to use them, to communicate with clients.

Web services are set to really take off and outsourcers will be among the first to use them, to communicate with clients.

Doug Mueller, chief technology officer at management software vendor Remedy, acknowledges there’s been a lot of hype about web services, but he believes the above scenario will pan out.

“We added web services to our products 18 months ago to allow all our apps on ARS [Action Request System] to be published via web services.”

ARS is the workflow tool that underpins all Remedy products.

Mueller, who visited New Zealand last week, told Computerworld: “We think the one technology that’s a big deal is web services, because it’s how people will integrate between products.”

What about those who say web services are still largely unproven and un-adopted?

“In 2003, people were saying ‘What are web services?’; in 2004 they’re saying ‘I’d better find out what they are,’ and in 2005 there will be widespread adoption of web services.

“We adopted web services early because they’ll be a key technology for integrating solutions and we’re talking to customers a lot about that.”

Companies that outsource to more than one provider are candidates for web services use, he says.

Dave Dodds, New Zealand field development manager for BMC Software, which bought Remedy in 2002, says an obvious use for web services is in organisations that use more than one outsourcer -— one for desktops and another for servers, for example.

For a company that outsources desktop management to one provider but server management to another, “web services is a way of connecting them all. There’s a huge opportunity for outsourcers to integrate into their customers’ processes.”

Mueller says web services are “how multiple players in service delivery will support communications”.

The web services vision of different applications talking to each other without human input is a far cry from the world of 14 years ago, when Mueller co-founded Remedy. Back then, he says, many processes for dealing with basic IT support “were paper-based or basic spreadsheets. There were a few very tailored products for network troubleshooting, but there weren’t may solutions there and that’s why we chose that space.”

Remedy was developed to fill the perceived gap and the ARS allowed users to automate many of the previously manual and inflexible processes, he says.

“Today, there are 3000 different business processes that have been automated by our customers worldwide.”

Remedy also has IT services management products and, following the acquisition of CRM vendor Pipestream in 1999, products for the customer support aspect of CRM.

That made it an attractive target for infrastructure software vendor Peregrine Systems and in 2001 Peregrine acquired Remedy for $US1 billion.

The following year Peregrine filed for Chapter 11 protection, the US equivalent of bankruptcy, and BMC bought the Remedy assets from Peregrine for $US350 million.

Downward stock price movements in the intervening year inflated the difference between the prices, but Mueller says BMC “got a good deal”.

BMC New Zealand’s Dodds agrees, saying it made sense both financially and strategically. “We needed an IT service management application; it was a good fit.”

Meuller says when Remedy passed into BMC’s hands, “we were more than glad not to be part of Peregrine.

“Peregrine was leading towards killing Remedy and connecting [Remedy’s] customers to Peregrine. It didn’t understand us and we were the poor stepchild.”

Remedy remains a separate business unit of BMC and the acquisition has worked well for New Zealand, Dodds says.

“All the larger Remedy customers here were also BMC customers, such as ASB Bank and the National Bank. “It was a very easy piece of work for us.”

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