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Network General buys Fidelia, boosts monitoring capabilities

Network General has acquired Fidelia Technology Inc., a deal the companies say will boost monitoring and analysis capabilities at the network level and beyond.

After weathering a breakup with software maker, McAfee Inc., the future was somewhat questionable for Network General.

But recent strategic moves, including advancements to its flagship Sniffer products late last year, are positioning the San Jose, Calif.-based network management tool vendor to strike back with a vengeance.

And the company's tenacity was cemented today. Network General acquired Princeton, N.J.-based Fidelia Technology Inc., the maker of NetVigil software, an IT infrastructure monitoring application that provides real-time visibility into the performance of the overall business. Neither company would discuss the terms of the deal.

With the addition of Fidelia, Network General's tool will be able to do more than just analyze the network. It can drill down further and pinpoint problems in specific segments and identify what the problems are from a business perspective.

"[Network General] always sort of had the 'what it is,'" said Robert Whitley, analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research. "The Fidelia acquisition gives them the 'what it means.'"

Whiteley said Network General provides deep visibility into how the network is or is not misbehaving and wrapping in Fidelia's NetVigil capabilities to assign a business context and value to those problems and events will boost marketability.

That move, Whiteley said, appeals more to the CIO and high level executives at a company, when before, Network General's products were focused solely on network managers.

"The network, quite frankly, is not a strategic asset," he said. "The CIO doesn't pay much attention to it. This takes all of the great Sniffer performance and application performance monitoring they had and ties it into business and strategy" which will get the CIOs interested.

Ken Boyd, CIO and executive vice president of products for Network General, said Fidelia's focus on business service management picks up where Network General left off.

"Where we end is at the network level," he said. "By combining what they do and what we do, we can correlate the impact of the IT infrastructure on the overall health of business services."

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Dennis Drogseth, vice president of Enterprise Management Associates, a Boulder, Colo.-based research firm, said the combination of Network General's packet flow analysis and NetVigil's topology-based management for systems, applications and the network is a "fascinating combination" that could also help Network General focus on small- and mid-sized businesses instead of just large enterprises. "Network General gets a very undervalued technology with a huge sales outreach that's different, but in line with its own,' he said.

The difficulty of managing distributed IP networks and applications fueled the acquisition, which has been in discussions for about a year, Boyd said.

Convergence of networks and applications has had a blurring effect on IT infrastructure management responsibilities, requiring IT managers to have broad knowledge of networks, applications and servers. The Network General/Fidelia partnership, Boyd said, provides visibility up and down the network stack, from packet to dashboard. Essentially, Boyd said, the enhanced monitoring function can tell networking pro's where to look and what to look for.

Network General specializes in network-wide reporting and monitoring, network and application problem resolution and packet level decodes and analysis. Fidelia, on the other hand, correlates the impact of IT infrastructure performance to the health of business services by providing an enterprise-wide management dashboard for business services, monitoring the availability and performance of network devices, applications and servers and giving a comprehensive set of metrics and alerts to facilitate service level management.

Boyd said Network General can now expand its coverage to run the gamut of application performance management on the network, applications and servers. The combined solution provides an end-to-end correlated view of performance and availability of critical business services and the underlying network infrastructure.

Whiteley said as the push continues for simplicity and consolidation, it's become more difficult to track virtual vs. physical problems that arise in the infrastructure. He said if the Network General/Fidelia combination goes as planned, it will make drilling down, identifying and fixing problems much easier.

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