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Network World's Network/Systems Management Newsletter, 01/08/07

What’s bubbling in network management for 2007?

By Dennis Drogseth

Continuing our look back at 2006, let’s look at some of the things that caught my personal attention in 2006 (the emphasis should be placed on the words “some” and “personal”), and how they will play out in 2007.

Last time, I discussed a few points regarding IBM, HP, BMC and CA. Today, I’m going to make a few observations about EMC and Symantec, configuration management – especially network configuration management, flow-based management and quality of experience (QoE). There is of course much more to talk about and I’ll leave that to future columns, such as the status of CMDB adoption, the direction of business service management, and next generation asset management.

EMC is a company to watch as it emerges into a more mainstream management posture, even if there are some glitches in performance. EMC’s acquisition of nLayers after the latter’s partnership announcement with EMC Smarts for application aware analytics (comparators and correlation), caught my attention in a very positive way. In addition, EMC’s breadth of capabilities in storage combined with VMware (in spite of VMware’s need for independence) and the RSA acquisition, as well as its strengths in content and document management, suggest a unique but sizeable footprint in data center automation. EMC is seeking to define the best path for a more overarching management strategy, including its rightful CMDB position, and of course a lot rides on where and what happens there.

Symantec is another company to watch, although one I’m currently not as close to as EMC. Symantec is emerging with its own CMDB strategy thanks in part to its Relicore acquisition. It may be building from there towards a more central capability that’s far more recognizable to most of us as core enterprise management, compared to its recent, enigmatic strategy centered in systems security and storage. Time will tell, and I believe that 2007 will be a pivotal year for Symantec in this regard.

Configuration management, and in particular network configuration management, has been more eventful in 2006 than I suspect most in the industry realize. While this topic deserves multiple columns to itself (and EMA is putting a lot of focus on it in 2007), the first thing to say is that most of the leading vendors are beginning to differentiate in compelling ways, such as analytics as applied to correlating configuration changes with infrastructure and service performance; richer asset and compliance management capabilities; and more integrated capabilities for automation.

Some of the partnership landmark events include HP licensing network configuration technology from Voyence, Opsware’s acquisition of Creekpath for storage management and data mining, and the partnership between systems config vendor BladeLogic and network config vendor AlterPoint, as well as the appearance of start-up RealOps for IT process automation.

AlterPoint’s open source initiative, ZipTie, is also an area to watch in 2007. Others worth noting include Configuresoft for systems configuration and analytics, Intelliden for process-centric network configuration and compliance, UpLogix for a mixture of out-of-band and network configuration, and Netcordia for an integrated capability that includes network and traffic engineering plus configuration management in a box. Also worth following is Cisco’s PACE initiative.

One thing to pay attention to in 2007 is a growing interest in integrating configuration management with core availability and performance – witness, for instance, SolarWinds.

As application performance becomes more and more dependent on network support, flow-based management similarly will grow in importance: especially real-time (or at least near-real-time) capabilities for understanding how application services are behaving across dispersed geographical areas. With the advent of service-oriented architectures and distributed applications over the network, the need for flow-based awareness of application performance will become absolutely real-time. Vendors to watch in this space are (in alphabetical order) Cisco, Compuware, Apparent Networks, NetQoS, NetScout, Network General and Network Physics. Packet Design and Solana also play here in route analytics. Coradiant is also worth watching, with its current focus on QoE. One thing to pay attention regarding this group in 2007 is how this on-the-surface unlikely group of vendors starts to become a player in integrating and sharing valued performance information in operationally aware CMDB systems.

Well that’s it for this column – and for now. These are just a few of the attention-grabbers from 2006 looking into 2007. I’ll be sharing a lot more in columns to come. And as always, I welcome your comments – what got your attention in 2006 and why?

Copyright Network World, Inc., 2007

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Last Modified: March 9, 2008