EMC Raises Bar on Network Management

EMC’s bid to
acquire Smarts Inc. for $260 million made it the latest systems vendor to add management
software that helps customers gain greater visibility into their IT

Analysts say the move is in step with an industry trend where systems
vendors acquire smaller management software vendors. With these new
components, companies like EMC , IBM ,
HP and others hope to provide more insight into clients’
computing systems.

So what exactly is EMC getting from network management software maker Smarts?
After all, EMC already has SAN management, storage resource
management (SRM) and back-up software to corral information.

Gartner analyst Bob Passmore provided more color on how Smarts helps
companies get smarter about their IT stacks. Passmore said that while
management systems from EMC and other vendors work well, the packages tend
to ask the administrator to know too much.

“If you’re operating on a complex network and something happens, the chances
are pretty good you’re going to get a whole bunch of events reported,”
Passmore explained. “You [as an admin] think the world is coming apart.”

Passmore said that after anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes of
troubleshooting, a really smart administrator will have figured out that one
of those things reported was what actually happened and the rest were
symptoms of that actual problem.

What’s missing in those existing management packages is the ability to
filter and correlate all these events and get down to the root cause.
Smarts’ software solves that problem, filtering and correlating events to
help admins gain pinpoint control over their IT systems.

Mark Lewis, EMC executive vice president, used an analogy to explain how Smarts’ InCharge
software works: “It will help customers take information from an event and
do what a doctor would do — look at various aches and pains and diagnose
the problem down to the root cause.”

Smarts makes a developer’s kit that allows potential clients to add
correlation and filtering for the environments they have.
Passmore said EMC’s No. 1 objective is to take this technology and move it
into the storage networking space to simplify the administration and
management of storage networks.

“EMC thinks that somewhere between the middle and end of next year,
they can use this developer’s kit to bring the technology to bear,” Passmore
said. “If they do, there is a good chance they may be the first in the
storage networking space to do that. If not, they’re certainly going to be
fairly early. And if they do it well, it’s going to be a big win for them.”

Lewis said Smarts software will pad EMC’s information lifecycle management
(ILM) portfolio for managing documents until they can be destroyed. The
company has spent the last two years fleshing out this strategy, adding
archiving, enterprise content management and server virtualization and

Meta Group’s Rich Evans said adding a premier event management player like
Smarts will help EMC provide clients greater insight into not only their
networks, but their applications and systems, as well.

“Sometimes the appetite changes,” Evans said. “EMC is moving up the food
chain toward providing full services management, managing the whole gamut of
solutions, not just the infrastructure.”

There is evidence the other vendors are doing the same. The push for
complete management software suites is undeniable. HP acquired
automated management specialists Novadigm and Consera last February.

IBM purchased
application performance management software (APM) maker Cyanea in July.
Veritas acquired
APM player Precise Software Solutions in June 2003.

And many analysts believe the technology was a major lure for
Symantec in its bid to acquire Veritas.

Evans said the trend is clear: Large vendors are picking up components that
will give customers more insight and visibility into their IT environments.
The more administrators can see, the better they can govern their networks.