As data centers consolidate and virtualization and cloud computing become ubiquitous, network management is increasingly becoming about application performance management rather than the connections between individual network nodes. Network managers must now focus on how applications perform over the network infrastructures they manage.
This trend is written all over CA Inc.'s $200 million acquisition of network and application performance vendor NetQoS Inc.
"That's the cornerstone of what we do," said NetQoS customer Don Lester, senior engineer with Wenatchee Valley Medical Center. "That's actually how we got started with NetQoS in the first place. Our first product with them was their SuperAgent, which is their application performance management platform. It trends applications in real time, creates baselines for those and alerts you when they deviate from the expected value. That's their foundation."
"[NetQoS was] doing that back when nobody else was," Lester said. "Their whole philosophy -- that I bought into hook, line and sinker six or seven years ago -- was that it doesn't really matter if you, as the network nerd, can get in and say 'The network link between these two cities looks fine to me. The ping tests are good.' What really does matter is what the end user experiences. How long does an application transaction take to complete?"
CA, which offers several network management products, didn't have a strong, flow-based network performance management tool before picking up NetQoS on Monday, according to Jim Frey, research director at Enterprise Management Associates Inc.
"They had a NetFlow product, CA eHealth Traffic Accountant, but they weren't having as much success [with it] as they were with other products, and I think they just decided that they wanted to reach out and fill that gap with a really strong brand that really got the market mindshare," Frey said. "NetQoS is pretty much hands-down the market leader."
Application performance management via network flows
CA does have a strong application performance management product portfolio with its Wily family of products, Frey said.
"But the problem is that those tend to be more data center-centric views. When you have a distributed organization and you're reaching out to cloud services that are off-site, you need to complement that with network-based performance views that give you a better sense of how things are performing across the distributed and outsourced organizational structures," he said.
The company targeted NetQoS in order to beef up its capabilities in three areas: network and systems management; application performance management; and virtualization and cloud management, said Roger Pilc, a senior vice president and general manager at CA.
"We have really good network fault, performance and configuration management [capabilities]," he said. "But we felt NetQoS, with their NetFlow monitoring, response time monitoring and their unified communications management, would help our customers be more application- and service-aware in managing their networks and systems. And it would help them better engineer their networks and systems to deliver high-quality and predictable applications services. [It would also] let them better diagnose problems and speed mean time to repair."
Increasingly, enterprises are moving applications onto private and public clouds, and they need to be able to see the response times of those applications, Pilc said. When applications move onto shared network and system resources, enterprises need to be able to see the consumption of those resources and they want to be able to charge back for use of those resources to individual business units. CA believes that NetQoS will help enable CA's customers to do this.
The network manager's toolbox: One big tool or a collection of specialists
Ultimately, CA is trying to offer a more holistic view of the network to enterprises, something that network management tools traditionally haven't done, said Abner Germanow, research director at IDC.
"Any time you look at the tools someone uses to manage a network, it's a little bit like the carpenter's toolbox," he said. "Depending on what it is you're trying to do, you have a variety of different tools for doing it. CA already has a fairly decent-sized toolbox, but NetQoS fills it out and gives them more in terms of their ability to do things like manage WAN connections. [It] really gives them a little bit more of an application-centric view of the network."
As CA moves toward offering enterprises a single pane of glass view of the network with its management tools, Germanow said it will be interesting to see which strategy the company uses. It could either tightly integrate all of its products into a "big fat integrated suite," such as network managers get when they invest in HP OpenView or IBM Tivoli. Or CA could move in another direction where it offers a single view that is built upon a group of loosely coupled products that pull multiple management aspects together.
"I think NetQoS heads CA more in that [latter] direction," Germanow said. "CA is going to continue operating NetQoS as a subsidiary company in the near term."
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor