Systems Management Tools Come Together

A chronic problem with many Windows NT-specific systems management tools is finally being resolved. Vendor-driven initiatives are improving integration between single-function systems management tools, leading to products that can share information and function as sets of products rather than as a collection of discrete, non-integrated services.

Take Aelita Software (www.aelita.net) for example. The company has a suite of products that include modules for domain reconfiguration, directory management, security management and event log management. The company willingly works with other vendors to integrate part or all of the entire suite into other products, and is currently working with its first partner company, Raxco Software Inc. (www.raxco.com). Through this relationship, Raxco is bundling several Aelita products together with Raxco’s technology as well as products from other third party vendors, including Computer Associates Int’l Inc. The result is Raxco’s instaNT Pro product suite.

Of the nine modules in the Raxco instaNT Pro suite, Raxco developers created only one of them -- the Raxco PerfectDisk NT product. Raxco’s president and CEO Bob Nolan explains, "One thing we found with a suite that is very different from point products, is that people look at it as their ‘architecture,’ instead of looking at it as something that sits on a couple of desktops. It is something they look at as an adjunct to their helpdesk."

Nolan says a collection of integrated products stands a better chance of being accepted as a company’s standard configuration, leading to more standardization of corporate desktops. Cost also can be an issue. "To buy several discrete products, will, by definition, be more expensive than an integrated source," adds Nolan.

Ratmir Timashev, president of Aelita Software, says his company has two distinct relationships with Raxco -- an OEM relationship and a reseller agreement. "The trend is more for the larger companies to buy and acquire the technologies of the smaller companies," Timashev says. "I don’t see a lot of smaller companies partnering with smaller companies. Maybe they have the wrong attitude for the competition."

Like many smaller companies, Aelita is working to integrate its products into larger framework products from vendors like CA, Hewlett-Packard and Tivoli.

Application management vendor NetIQ Corp. (www.netiq.com) has a different spin on Aelita’s strategy. "In our case, we’re not trying to be all things to all people. We’re trying to come up with a focused solution," says NetIQ vice president of marketing Tom Kemp. But he observes, "There’s been a strong drive on the part of our customers to have these products work ‘out of the box,’ kind of like the way that Microsoft is doing with COM." He likens his company’s approach to buying stereo equipment: A consumer can buy a receiver, CD player and speakers from different manufacturers to create a best-of-breed solution -- one that works as well as or better than a solution configured of single-supplier components.

NetIQ also is pursuing an integration strategy with CA, Tivoli and HP. But at the same time, NetIQ is working on interproduct integration between its AppManager suite and complementary products, creating what it calls "connectors," which facilitate the sharing of information. NetIQ recently announced that it completed a connector facilitating interaction between AppManager and AlarmPoint, an event notification system from Singlepoint Systems Inc. (www.singlepointsys.com).

The connectors are proprietary interfaces between NetIQ’s products and those from complementary products. Unlike the Aelita/Raxco suite, NetIQ’s product is not sold as part of another company’s suite.

At the other extreme is heavyweight Intel Corp.’s LANDesk suite, recently upgraded to version 6.2. The suite includes inventory and desktop management functions, software metering, as well as ODBC database support for desktop systems.

Although Intel is anxious to integrate the LANDesk suite with other products, users can’t buy LANDesk products from Intel. Intel employs an OEM/ISV channel program to sell licenses.

Intel’s strategy includes a heavy emphasis on OEM deployment of LANDesk, meaning full integration of the LANDesk suit into other products. One of Intel’s lead deployments is IBM’s Enterprise Suite for NT product. "We’re not at all opposed to having somebody with another brand name integrate our technology into theirs, and subsume us into their brand. IBM, with its NT Suite, subsumes almost completely," says David Rowe, director of system management marketing at Intel’s System Management Division.

Still, Intel encounters hesitation from other players who perceive Intel to be a competitor to fear. "We don’t want to be in CA’s or Tivoli’s space. But we want to achieve integration with them, or Platinum, or any of the other system management players," Rowe continues. "Sometimes it’s not always easy to reach the same level of partnership with players that compete with each other," he says.

Aelita’s Timashev suggests that the time for smaller systems management companies to make their mark is now. In the long term, small companies will have two basic choices: get big or get acquired. "The market is relatively young. In a couple of years things will change," Timashev says. "Those smaller companies will either not be visible any more, or they will be acquired by larger companies."