The solution to a majority of network management problems and the trusty spell-check function in word processing applications may be more closely related than one might think.
Today Austin, Texas-based AlterPoint Inc. is launching DeviceAuthority Suite 3.5, a toolset designed to automate configuration and administration of network devices.
The update is highlighted by a unique feature: configuration syntax checking.
The DeviceAuthority Suite 3.5 has a configuration syntax library, which uses a change implementation template to validate a user's configuration command lines as they are sent to each device. In other words, the syntax library is to configuration command lines as a spell-check function is to a Microsoft Word document.
Ryan Shopp, AlterPoint's senior director of product management strategy, said the feature goes a long way in preventing common manual configuration errors, "because the most common problem with configuration syntax is human misconfiguration."
The syntax-checking function is designed to correct recognized misconfigurations. "The proactiveness helps to reduce errors even before they touch the device," Shopp said.
According to Dennis Drogseth, vice president with research firm Enterprise Management Associates, the function is part of a broader distinguishing feature in AlterPoint's product, offering mixture of pragmatism and advanced design.
"AlterPoint characteristically innovates with what I would call a 'healthy, real-world pragmatism,' which includes opportunistically utilizing familiar technologies to enable new functions," Drogseth said. "DeviceAuthority 3.5 effectively extends AlterPoint's investment in model-based intelligence, and adds strong features for security."
DeviceAuthority 3.5 security features include automated policy remediation, which allows for proactive change management of network devices that are out of compliance or in violation.
Through automated remediation change templates, out-of-compliance devices are detected and automatically fixed, allowing organizations to align and enforce internal industry regulations and government standards such as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, National Security Agency, ISO, Sarbanes-Oxley and Six Sigma.
With this release, AlterPoint is also upping the ante on the product's Network Intelligence Model (NIM), which enables users to establish advanced compliance standards. That helps users prevent network outages from occurring, increase device configuration efficiency and accuracy and greatly improve network security.
In the new version, customers can take advantage of more than 700 hardware, software, configuration and operational attributes, such as access controllers, traffic filters on routers, virtual LAN and switch interconnections. That's up from 450 attributes in the previous release.
As in past releases, the suite bundles three network management tools: Audit Module, Update Module and Server. The Audit Module offers real-time information on device hardware, software and configurations. The Update Module enables change management by using automated scripting and process validation. The Server provides user-control functions and facilitates integration with other enterprise management systems.
Stephen Elliot, a senior analyst at International Data Corp., said this release distinguishes AlterPoint in the market. However, he expects vendors to continue developing capabilities to advance network configuration ease of use and enterprise management console integrations.
As for competition, Elliot believes the true market leader is Cisco Systems Inc., and predicts mergers will occur in the next two years to help drive this market.
Rendition Networks Inc. was recently acquired by Opsware Inc., leaving AlterPoint, Intelliden Corp. and Voyence Inc. as the three remaining independent players in the configuration management market. Elliot said AlterPoint and Voyence are both doing well, as AlterPoint focuses more on enterprise accounts versus service provider deals.
Drogseth said AlterPoint is growing its customer base significantly.
"They are probably the most 'downwardly scalable' solution in the market, meaning that they can be cost effective in environments with as few as 50 devices," said Drogseth. "But they are now beginning to succeed in much, much larger environments as well. This is overall a market with rich potential -- and good, solid choices emerging for customers willing to consider them."