NETWORK WORLD NEWSLETTER: DENNIS DROGSETH ON NETWORK/SYSTEMS
Today's focus: Visual Networks comes full circle to focus on
By Dennis Drogseth
The evolution of Visual Networks shows how a company can build
from its strengths and learn from its failures.
Visual Networks was one of the leading pioneers in service-level
management in the mid-1990s with Visual UpTime, its Committed
Information Rate product that assessed frame relay service-level
agreement (SLA) compliance between service providers and their
enterprise customers. Visual extended UpTime to support ATM and
eventually IP traffic, and later released IP Insight, which
enabled Visual to support IP response time at the desktop for
Internet provided services.
The two products fitted naturally as IP Insight's focus on
clean, localized deployment with its desktop agents complemented
UpTime's Analysis Service Element (ASE), a Data Service
Unit/Channel Service Unit (DSU/CSU) for collecting network
performance information between a router and the WAN cloud.
However, Visual's exploration of root cause analysis with its
Avesta acquisition proved more troublesome as it required a
substantially enhanced service support organization for
deployment. This repositioned Visual away from performance to
focus across the full internal enterprise without necessarily
reinforcing Visual's traditional sweet spot - performance
management between the enterprise and the service provider.
In these "times of troubles," which spanned the end of the
dot-com boom at the end of the 1990s, Visual eventually
jettisoned its root cause initiative and repositioned itself to
harvest its successful service provider business, which was
largely driven by service providers reselling UpTime to
enterprise buyers. It continued to broaden its functionality to
support just about any type of network access, including class
of service over IP/MPLS.
Beginning late last year and through the spring/summer of this,
Visual has been introducing a series of developments that
refocuses its business back to the enterprise. But this time it
is capitalizing on its strengths in performance management and
flexible deployment, while empowering the enterprise to govern
critical business services in the face of service provider-WAN
Visual has added significant insights into application level
behavior to make these native strengths better. The enhancements
cumulatively provide enterprises with solid information for both
troubleshooting and optimizing network investments as they
introduce, maintain or enhance application services.
The company has also announced a flexible means for purchasing
functionality with UpTime Select so that an enterprise can
choose, for instance, from modules such as WAN Troubleshooting
and Back in Time Traffic Capture (for historical analysis), and
class of service. The new application capabilities are also
modular choices. For instance, list pricing for Visual's
Application Flows Module is $1,500 per site. Pricing of the
Application Summary Module is $500 per site, with a combined
price of $1,700 for both modules.
Visual UpTime Select's application analyses include analysis of
client-to-client, client-to-server, and server-to-server
performance. UpTime leverages packet analysis as well as port
assignments to identify applications, and can drill down to
individual application transactions (e.g., with an Oracle
database). Since Visual is committed to the enterprise market,
and since it recognizes that application services are the
ultimate and prime concern for that market, it will continue to
aggressively enrich its application capabilities.
EMA has been in dialog with a number of Visual enterprise
customers in the last eight months. These customers are
strongly positive about Visual's ability to assess utilization,
understand application-specific information on WAN connections,
and manage to keep their own user populations (individual
application bandwidth hogs or inappropriate traffic) and their
service providers in line. Of particular interest is the
ability of UpTime to "see into carrier-related SLAs," including
class of service, round trip delay, availability and packet
delivery ratios. UpTime also provides rapid diagnostic insights
into viruses and helps isolate problems, as well as assist in
baselining and planning in times of mergers and consolidation,
or simply help with adds, moves and changes.
EMA believes that Visual's current market direction is the right
one for its overall mix of product, value and culture. While
Visual will enhance its application management capabilities, it
doesn't mean it is positioning itself to become the next BMC.
Rather, Visual's core strengths coalesce well in an enterprise
universe in which data center and WAN performance must combine,
and in which applications are increasingly a geographical,
rather than localized phenomenon that are no longer isolated and
apart from, but dependent on and are citizens of the network.
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Copyright Network World, Inc., 2004