Management Vendors Climb on Board for NT 5.0

In early May, a number of system management vendors announced management-related initiatives slated to debut with the next-generation Windows NT 5.0 operating system from Microsoft Corp. Management agents from vendors such as Compuware Corp. (Farmington Hills, Mich.,, Hewlett-Packard Co., NetIQ Corp. (Santa Clara, Calif., and Tivoli Systems Inc. (Austin, Texas, will ship on the Windows NT 5.0 CD-ROM. For its part, Computer Associates Int'l Inc. (CA) announced at its CA World user conference in New Orleans last month that the Real World Interface (RWI) for its Unicenter TNG product would ship with Windows NT 5.0 as well.

In the aftermath of the announcements, many vendors trumpeted the inclusion of their respective agents or interfaces on the Windows NT 5.0 CD-ROM as proof positive of their cozy relationships with Microsoft. According to at least one industry analyst, however, such claims simply have no basis in truth.

"These announcements were a way to create hype, and hype is not going to solve any of your problems," maintains Ray Paquet, an analyst with consultancy and research firm the Gartner Group (Stamford, Conn.).

If you listen to a vendor such as CA tell its story, however, the inclusion of Unicenter TNG's RWI browser interface with Windows NT 5.0 is a major coup for both CA and Windows NT management. "The distribution of CA's Real World Interface for Windows NT provides clients with a unifying interface for managing their Windows computing and communications environments," claimed CA CEO Charles Wang in a prepared release. "This is a major step toward the practical implementation of true cross-resource, service-oriented management."

Wang's pronouncement is typical of much of the bluster coming out of the system management vendor community. As it is, during its CA World user conference, CA trotted Microsoft CEO Bill Gates out on stage to extol the virtues of the bundling of its RWI with Windows NT 5.0. "We're pleased that CA's Real World Interface for Windows NT provides customers with [manageability data], further enhancing the manageability of their Windows systems," Gates affirmed at the time.

But should IT managers looking to enhance manageability in their enterprise environments expect to reap any significant benefit from these announcements? Not likely, say many analysts. Rather, the raft of management-related announcements on the part of the system management vendor community is an indication of a huge market-share war.

Dan Kusnetzkey, director of operating environments and serverware research with International Data Corp. (IDC, Framingham, Mass.), thinks that the recent raft of management-related announcements demonstrates that Microsoft is serious about Windows NT management going forward. "Microsoft is pulling out all of the stops to prove that Windows NT is scalable, manageable, reliable and any other -able that would allow it to enter the enterprise software club," Kusnetzky avers. "They are working hard to find ways to address just about every concern competitors have raised. It remains to be seen if it will be enough."

According to Gartner's Paquet, however, the marketplace for Windows NT system management tools is one of the most fractious in the industry. At the same time, the broad adoption of Windows NT in the enterprise is also creating an increased demand for management tools in the Windows NT space. Traditional systems management giants such as Tivoli, CA and HP are attempting to leverage their existing enterprise expertise in a burgeoning Windows NT system management marketplace populated by swift, nimble competitors such as NetIQ and Mission Critical Software Inc. (Houston, who have architected their respective products from the ground up for Windows NT.

In the final analysis, Gartner's Paquet says, there really just wasn't much substance in many of the announcements. Each of the management agents supplied by Tivoli, HP, and so on, provide no native manageability, and CA's RWI simply provides a GUI for accessing Common Information Model information.

In Paquet's account, best practices and competent IT administrators are more often than not the key to effective administration in distributed Windows NT environments. "Do you believe that these technologies are going to solve your problems?" He concludes. "[It's] the people and the processes [that] are most important."

CA's Real World Interface, due to ship with Windows NT 5.0, allows administrators to perform management functions within CA's Unicenter TNG system management infrastructure.