Understanding a Network Management Marketplace in Transition
Probably the most compelling evidence is that many major network management vendors have been acquired.
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A few examples:
The drumbeat goes on. Most recently HP announced its intention to acquire Opsware, which includes strong network configuration management capabilities. On a less major scale, BMC acquired Real Ops with strong roots in network process automation, and BMC also formed a partnership with Entuity for root cause diagnostics; all three occurring in July of this year.
Nevertheless, there are a significant number of free-standing network management vendors, a number of which have made acquisitions of their own. Among these, Fluke has acquired Crannog and Visual Networks for application service performance management, OPNET acquired Altaworks for Web-based, transaction-driven, application management, Network General acquired Fidelia for a variety of service and event management features, NetScout acquired Quantiva for application analytics, and NetQoS acquired RedPoint Systems for SNMP-based polling.
All this activity suggests the network management marketplace is consolidating and reshaping itself at a rapid rate. Vendors are struggling not only to gobble up new real estate, but perhaps even more importantly, to reposition who they are within a broader management marketplace thats similarly in a rapid state of flux.
Planning & Strategies
What does this mean for you in planning IT management strategies that increasingly depend on network efficiencies in reaching distributed environments? It at least implies that traditional siloed approaches to buying niche tools in isolation may not be the right strategy for very much longer. Along with all these acquisitions, in fact, the network management market is deconstructing and reconstructing itself to support more cross-domain requirements, better analytics, and more modular approaches to deployment and functional packaging.
In this months column were going to look at some of the hot spots in the new network management marketplace. In next months column Im going to provide some suggestions on how to capitalize on these changes without getting waylaid by all the confusion and sometimes all the hype around them.
Deconstructing and reconstructing: Platforms such as CA, EMC and IBM are not just acquiring domain-specific management capabilities when they acquire network management vendors. They are also looking for extensible and reusable parts.
For instance CA is evaluating how far it can extend SPECTRUMs inferencing engine as a source of root cause diagnostics across the broader infrastructure, including servers and application services, just as EMC has extended SMARTS analytics to support storage and application flows. IBM will be leveraging Micromuse discovery and has already integrated its dashboard into a more cohesive service management capability. Network management in support of application delivery: If the network is an instrumented ocean across which all applications must flow, then it makes sense to exploit the network as a resource in monitoring application traffic and diagnosing application problemsand not only when the network is at fault.
At minimum, good network management today can accurately isolate where a problem is occurring in large distributed environments, often pinpointing specific servers or exposing chatty application design.
The real-time rise of real-time: Application flow management across the network is increasingly being done in real-time, or near real-time. This is because unlike traditional, component-centric network performance management, it doesnt require polling.
Some capabilities, such as route analytics, expose the actual path of application traffic in a fully real-time context. This type of visibility will become yet more important with the advent of service-oriented architectures (SOA) that exploit distributed networked access beyond single data center implementations.
The rise of configuration management: In part because of the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and its emphasis on configuration management (meaning visibility into configuration and topological change) as an enabler for all management disciplines, network configuration capabilities are becoming increasingly strategic for IT buyers. The multi-purpose benefits of good configuration management tools to help automate change, as well as to support more effective diagnostics, compliance, security, asset management and other disciplines represents a breakthrough in both network management and in the industry at large.
OSS to IT: Operation support systems (OSS) as used by classic telecommunications providers are beginning to look at IT best-practices such as ITIL, and more conscious support for application delivery services.
In parallel, IT organizations are increasingly beginning to adopt a more service provider-like posture with a focus on measurable accountability and quality. These commonalities are also causing cross currents in the market that are allowing vendors to repurpose innovations targeted at one set of buyers to serve the othertypically at different levels of scalability and different price points.
The famous American novelist, Nathaniel West, when confronted with a poetry magazine called Transition populated by the ill-conceived writing of pampered starlets was asked to comment on the quality of the contents. His reply, arguably the single fastest uptake in the history of American literary discourse was, All I can say is Transition spelled backwards is no it isn art.
But the network management marketplace is transitioning to something better; difficult though it is to see through all of its complexity. Perhaps the core to appreciating this brave new world is to focus on the deconstruction and reconstruction along the lines of correlation and analytics, or more advanced discovery now visible within some of the more enlightened platform architectural strategies.
Investing in network management is no longer just about managing networking hardware. Its about investing in extensible technologies that may be applied in application and service management, change and configuration management, discovery and asset management, security and compliance, just to mention a few areas.
Dennis Drogseth is a vice president and leads Enterprise Management Associates' New Hampshire office. A driving force in establishing EMAs New England presence, Drogseth is also the Network Services practice leader.