Understanding a Network Management Marketplace in Transition

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 problems—and 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 doesn’t 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 other—typically 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. It’s 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 EMA’s New England presence, Drogseth is also the Network Services practice leader.