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Rise Of IP Networks Demands Industry Innovation Not Industry Consolidation

By Jean-Luc Valente


The network performance management market has seen much change brought on by acquisitions in the last year with IBM, CA, and EMC purchasing Micromuse, Concord Communications, and SMARTS, respectively. Contrary to some rumblings in the industry, this flurry of consolidation does not mean the future of network management lies with large vendors whose capabilities span multiple areas. With a new technology like IP telephony, vendors must constantly innovate, remain nimble, and be able to adapt to rapidly changing products and services. Independent, specialized vendors are better equipped to quickly react to market shifts and drive innovation through their depth of expertise, proximity to customer demands and pain points, and freedom from the constraints of legacy technology and integration issues.

Todays network plays a much more critical role, supporting myriad IP services like IP telephony and messaging that are linked to strategic business functions. The complexity of managing these IP services stems from the fact that they are cross-silo and span applications, system components, and core network resources. Their mission-critical nature means that addressing problems after they occur is too late. In such an environment, IT managers need predictive and proactive performance management that detects potential problems and triggers early warning alarms to preempt issues before they affect the end-user, which demands an automated, top-down performance management perspective. Since the service level is only as good as the weakest link in the chain, a holistic view of services and resources with access to granular detail is critical to accurately assessing and mitigating risk.

Proactive performance management involves aggregating critical data about all network devices and using it for baselining, trending, and capacity planning. It leverages existing tools and processes, allowing for integration with other management systems to solve end-to-end service level issues. Proactive performance management also enables reporting from the service and device levels so that IT managers can correlate business metrics to IT performance and determine which problems to address first. This ability to link services to the underlying IT infrastructure provides faster problem resolution, enabling IT managers to identify where the problem resides and what user applications are being affected.

There are four key reasons why large vendors are not able to meet the challenges of managing todays IP networks.

Reliance on fault management solutions that fail to address the requirement for a predictive and proactive approach.

Large vendors have typically relied on a fault management view of the infrastructure, which looks at network performance from a black and white perspective, giving only a real-time view of operations, and emphasizing troubleshooting capabilities over more proactive services like preemptive performance alerting, capacity planning, and trending. Many alerts inherent in fault management have no impact on the business and inherently address problems after the fact, when service degradation has already occurred. For delay-sensitive applications, like voice, it is imperative to anticipate issues in order to assure the quality of the end user experience. Vendors that combine real-time reporting with historical analysis enable customers to predict and address server and network problems before end user productivity and quality of experience is affected.

Service providers and enterprises today are demanding end-to-end service management, which requires a flexible and adaptive architecture.

End-to-end service management provides a thorough understanding of the underlying system and the related performance metrics without which you cannot manage the quality of that service against end-user expectations. This entails monitoring and managing all relevant infrastructure technologies to track quality of service and capacity and is impossible without several key functions: A unified view of the network; the ability to collect data from any source in a multi-vendor and multi-technology environment; performance measurement of devices and applications against key performance indicators; and easily accessible business-relevant IT service performance information. Large vendors with legacy product architectures typically have difficulty adapting to and supporting new and complex multi-vendor environments to provide end-to-end service management.

Integration issues tie up resources and put large vendors behind the curve.

Large vendors that frequently acquire new products are faced with the perpetual challenge of integrating a mix of different technologies into their existing framework. For companies like IBM, CA, or HP, with so many offerings, the risk of a suboptimal solution that results from poor integration is very real. It is a burden that is ultimately felt by the customer and drives implementation failures, high costs, slower time to value and low tangible return.

Large vendors cannot harness innovation to the greatest benefit of their customers.

Large vendors cannot innovate quickly enough to harness the potential of new technologies, needing to attain critical mass before putting the latest technology into their products. Specialized vendors can take advantage of new capabilities and cater to early adopters, keeping them on the leading edge of technology and innovation.

The organic market cycle will continue to see larger vendors acquiring niche players, particularly as IP network adoption evolves and the demand for converged networks increases. However, the true market leaders will not be determined by size but by the ability to innovate and stay ahead of their customers demands. IT

Jean-Luc Valente is Senior Vice President, Global Marketing and Strategic Alliances at InfoVista (news -alerts). For more information, please visit the company online at

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