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Network management and monitoring market remains crowded, fragmented

IDC's new assessment of the network management and monitoring market reveals a crowded and fragmented landscape where leading vendors don't necessarily compete against one another. Instead, they are solving different problems for network managers, who increasingly find themselves using three or more discrete tools to run the network.

The network management and monitoring market remains highly fragmented as network administrators continue to find that no single tool serves all their needs.

This fragmentation becomes readily apparent when one tries to measure the network management market. While the market may have its so-called leaders, many of these leaders aren't actually competing with one another. In fact, they perform entirely different tasks for network managers, and they quite often partner with one another.

Research firm IDC recently published its worldwide network performance and operations management forecast and market share report. Abner Germanow, research director for IDC, said NetScout was the market leader in 2008, with a 13% share of the $1.9 billion network management and monitoring market. IDC is also projecting a 6.6% compound annual growth rate of the network management market through 2013.

While NetScout may be top dog in the network management space, however, the market doesn't feature the typical cutthroat competition one sees in the IT industry, where several vendors may be fighting over customers, Germanow said. In the network switching market, for instance, Cisco dominates. Meanwhile, Force10, HP ProCurve, Brocade, Juniper, Extreme, Enterasys, Nortel and several others wage a bloody war against Cisco and one another for small pieces of the market.

"One of the things that's interesting about the network management and monitoring market is that in many ways it's not necessarily a competitive market, but more of a logical market," Germanow said. "Right now, you have people like NetScout who have got more revenue than anyone else in the market in 2008. Then you have IBM and HP, who also have their own network management and monitoring portfolios. But they are also NetScout partners."

Indeed, the network management market is very fragmented. Vendors may be competing for mindshare and market share, but many of the technologies on the market solve different problems for network managers.

"When you go in and talk to someone in IT about their network management tools, they typically respond with, 'Well, I use Solarwinds for this and HP Network Node Manager for something else,' " Germanow said. "And they don't view the tasks that are done by those two products as competitive. They are complementary."

In any case, he listed the top 10 vendors in the network management and monitoring market as:

  • NetScout
  • IBM
  • CA
  • HP
  • Alcatel-Lucent
  • Fluke Networks
  • EMC
  • Solarwinds
  • Opnet
  • InfoVista

Germanow didn't reveal complete market share details for each of these vendors, but he said that NetScout leads the way with 13% of the market, and InfoVista brings up the rear with 3.6%.

The network management market is so diverse that vendors are constantly introducing new products and features. Often, the new technology addresses problems that network managers have been solving for years with arcane spreadsheets and manual processes.

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For instance, earlier this month, Infoblox -- a vendor of core network services technologies such as DHCP and DNS server infrastructure -- introduced its PortIQ appliance. PortIQ uses Infoblox's existing IP address management (IPAM) tools and proprietary vendor protocols to discover all the switch ports on an enterprise's network. It then tracks port usage over time to help network managers determine how many of those ports are actually being used. Such a task is critical to sound capacity management, and yet so many network managers handle this process with outdated spreadsheets and manual queries of individual switches.

Solarwinds, meanwhile, added a new IPAM module to its flagship Orion Network Manager product this week.

"I think what's interesting is [Solarwinds] continually adds new modules to Orion that very often take over jobs that people are currently doing in Excel or some other homegrown tools," Germanow said.

Kenny Van Zandt, chief product strategist at Solarwinds, noted that his company's customers had been asking for an affordable IPAM product for a while. The entry-level price for Orion's IPAM module is $2,000 for up to 1,000 IP addresses.

"There are a number of point solutions out there, but nothing for companies managing more than 2,000 devices until you get well up into large enterprises," Van Zandt said. "And most vendors in IP address management, such as BlueCat and Infoblox, the actual management part of the IP address management is not their focus. They're more focused on DHCP servers or DNS servers because they're selling that infrastructure. They'll usually bundle the IPAM product with their infrastructure, but once you do that, you're locked into their products. It's much more fragmented on the infrastructure side, and we decided there is room for us in the market."

Network management and monitoring continues to resemble the Wild West, with network managers using a variety of point products to manage different parts of their networks. But, clearly, IT pros would love to consolidate the number of management tools they use on a daily basis, if for no other reason than to save money and make their operations more efficient. This move toward consolidation means that many vendors will stop selling their products solely as network management products. Instead, they will position their products as IT management products that break down operational silos in IT and allow system administrators, network administrators, storage managers and application managers all to use the same systems to manage and monitor their domains.

"Too many tools can lead to a lack of integration," said Steven Guthrie, director of product marketing at CA. "The success of low-end niche tools in the enterprise tells us that these point products come in for good reasons. But then they outlive their usefulness, and they end up stalling mean-time-to-repair. That data source [in the niche tool] may not sync up with other data sources you may have."

CA has been focusing on this tool consolidation in recent years, and its efforts to execute on this trend were reflected this week by the release of new versions of its two core network management products: eHealth Network Performance Manager and Spectrum Network Fault Manager. CA has removed the word "network" from the names of both these products. They are now called Spectrum Infrastructure Manager and eHealth Performance Manager.

"Spectrum and eHealth are not just network products anymore," Guthrie said. "The network is still very critical and it's a foundational piece for these products. IT triage starts at the network. The first person to go to when there is an issue is the network team. So it's good practice to start at that foundation, but when you find that the network is performing up to expectations, you go on from there. What eHealth and Spectrum have started to do is cross-silo transparency."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor

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