Enterprise management software company BMC has bought Phurnace Software in a deal to help BMC reduce the cost and complexity of deploying Java applications into virtual and cloud environments.

BMC plans to incorporate Phurnace technology into BMC's BladeLogic Server Automation Suite. To start, BMC will sell and support the acquired products as BMC BladeLogic Application Release Automation. The software, BMC said, will automate the application deployment process to reduce the risk of errors and outages associated with manual or script-based processes. 

"We see the application layer as the next frontier in data center automation. Only through automation can customers drastically reduce the time it takes to deploy applications to a production environment while dramatically reducing the risks and costs of the deployment process," said Dev Ittycheria, president of enterprise service management at BMC. "This acquisition significantly enhances our capabilities in the application layer, positions us extremely well to manage the next-generation data center and considerably strengthens BMC's business service management platform."

Phurnace, which competes with rPath in the application release automation market, offers technology to model and deploy Java Enterprise Edition applications for WebLogic, WebSphere, JBoss and WebSphere Portal. The company said its products eliminate the need for scripting and provide troubleshooting and remediation capabilities. Phurnace products also automate the migration of applications from one version of an application server to another. BMC said Phurnace's Deliver products were already integrated into existing BMC BladeLogic deployments.

Industry watchers say demand is high for tools to automate the application release management process, which is among the best practices detailed by the IT Infrastructure Library, or ITIL. Release management involves moving applications from development to quality assurance and test to production environments without introducing errors. It also includes the process of adding changes to applications or updating them with the most recent version on large-scale distributions, processes that in large physical, virtual and cloud environments requires automation, analysts say.

"Release management technology is essentially software distribution tools on steroids. The software takes applications from development and test environments and moves them into operations," said Glenn O'Donnell, a senior analyst with Forrester Research. "It enables IT to decide when and to what environments to make updates or to distribute only the chunks of code that have been changed. That process used to be once every few months for many organisations, but now it is more common to happen more than once per week. Tracking and controlling that process has hit a crescendo, and we are seeing a lot of interest in the technology now."

BMC completed the Phurnace Software acquisition on the heels of two other application-related buys: MQ Software and Tideway Systems. 

The MQ buy helped BMC acquire technology that would benefit customers developing service-oriented architectures, and the Tideway purchase brought BMC technology that builds a map of a company's applications and the underlying infrastructure that supports them.

The focus on application management in virtual and cloud environments could put BMC at an advantage when customers begin to experience the challenges, says Jasmine Noel, principal analyst and co-founder of research firm Ptak, Noel & Associates.

"People aren't yet screaming over virtualisation and its effect on application management, it has been kind of quiet on that front, so my guess is that people are implementing the technology and then the screaming over the challenges it poses will begin by mid-2010," she said.