Opportunities Abound in Transitioning Network Management MarketplaceLast month I wrote about how the network management marketplace is deconstructing and reconstructing itself along new lines by extending discovery to support more than the network, or, for example, supporting both inventory and root-cause analysis, or extending correlation capabilities to support systems and application analysis.
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Im going to revisit some of this technological re-alignment later in this column, but Id like to begin with an even larger thought: integrating the network operations center (NOC) into a broader operations and ultimately business service vision.
Now, to be clear, I realize this suggests one of two things: either viewing network operations as an organization used to evangelize and bring IT processes into the mainstream; and/or leveraging the existing capabilities in some NOCs to manage across network/system/application interdependencies to integrate other more siloed IT organizations from the data center.
For instance, while ITIL best practices typically dont begin with the NOC, but more often with the service desk and then the data center. In fact, the trend can sometimes be the reverse. I would say that while in most organizations the NOC is the last group on board with configuration management database (CMDB) system implementations, in probably 25% of the cases Ive worked with its the first group to implement an early phase CMDB; typically oriented at service impact management. And Ive often heard NOC directors complain about the lack of network support for many CMDB system offerings todayproving that the NOC is ahead not behind market.
The reasons for this somewhat schizophrenic role vis-à-vis more holistic management shouldnt be too much of a surprise. On the one hand, the NOC, and network engineers in particular, are famous for being stubborn, independent and misunderstood. By image, at least, they are on the high end of fitting in with being classically non-communicative Dilberts.
On the other hand, many network operations organizations are already established in managing across interdependencies so that problems can be diagnosed across the network, or isolated to the application, or the server, or the database. In accordance with this, many good network management solutions are capable of identifying application design issues, such as chatty applications, or informing on server performance.
As a result, in many IT organizations, its the network team, particularly the network engineers, who are best prepared to coordinate troubleshooting across silos, or plan for overarching requirements in infrastructure optimization, or manage remote locations including systems and application access/ responsiveness.
The Vendors & The Marketplace
Recent data shows that an astonishing 51% of purchases involving network change and configuration management solutions were made in conjunction with a CMDB initiative. Standalone management purchases came in a distant second at about 16%. Purchases made in conjunction with systems management configuration and other software came in next at 13%, beating out purchases of network device hardware needing configuration tools at 12%.
This data is radically different from what we would have seen five or even three years ago. Its one indicator that planning network management strategies is becoming a much more holistic endeavor. Another striking data point is that 64% of our respondents from Q4 2006 indicated that their organization had done, or was about to make, some organizational change to facilitate better collaboration between the NOC and the data center.
So, investing in management solutions is no longer just about buying siloed tools to manage just the network. And much of the push and shove in the network management market is consciously or not driven by this very fact. Vendors selling network management solutions know they have to change their business model to support a broader set of roles; from engineering to operations to service assurance across all domains.Given that, and getting back to technology, Id like to wrap up with EMAs recommendations for assessing the value of management investments for what we call next generation service assurance. These requirements were evolved to address cross-domain requirements that impact all of IT operations, but it turns out that every one of them are relevant to making investments on the network management front.
These are, admittedly, only some pointers targeted at evaluating solutions specifically in support of service assurance. Other disciplines such as capacity planning, asset management and financial planning, and configuration management in and of itself have their own lists of design attributes. But this list, in combination with a good plan for evolving organization and process, can serve as a good departure point for planning strategic service management technology adoption.
These capabilities not only answer technical needs, but they reinforce and enable the kind of cultural and process change that many IT organizations are just beginning to make, often with strikingly positive results.
Dennis Drogseth is vice president of Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates, an industry research firm focused on IT management. Dennis can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.