What's in Store for Network Management in 2001?

Entuity, Inc., a network fault, inventory and performance management software developer, is making available predictions from leading analysts on network management issues and trends for 2001. The sentiment echoed most by analysts is that due to today’s ultra-stressed environments, companies must adopt a proactive network management approach, moving beyond "reactive firefighting" to ensure greater levels of service quality.

"Network management is going to continue its leap out of the doldrums of ‘necessary evils’ to the forefront of every enterprise IT manager and service provider's agenda," said Chris Aronis, industry analyst, Network Strategy Partners. "More important than quickly identifying and restoring a network outage, proactive network and fault management is absolutely paramount to providing telephony-like quality of service. Proactive network management will be the cornerstone of managed network services, from VPNs to applications, and everything in between. Service provider customers don't want service level agreement credits - they want reliable, always-on service."

The predictions are part of Entuity’s Proaction 2001, an educational program encouraging strategic network management preparedness for the year ahead among enterprises, service providers and e-commerce companies. As part of the initiative, and as a result of ongoing research and dialogue with analysts, Entuity has also developed The Art of Network Management. The booklet, which adapts principals from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, provides guidance which will allow companies to create an effective network management strategy.

"As a developer of proactive network management software, we are focused on gaining insight into the future and heading off problems before they occur -- that’s what Proaction 2001 is all about," said Joe Collinwood, chief executive officer of Entuity. "To quote Sun Tzu; ‘The rule of military operations is not to count on opponents not coming, but to rely on having ways of dealing with them.’ That is the proactive philosophy necessary for handling today’s networks."

The Service Phase

According to many of the analysts surveyed for Entuity’s Proaction 2001, network management is moving into a new phase -- one focusing on performance. This positive trend must increasingly treat the network as a function critical to carrying out or supporting business services.

"The year 2001 will be one of transformation within the network management industry," said Dennis Drogseth, director, Enterprise Management Associates. "This transformation will be driven by improved intelligence systems in problem resolution, performance management and service modeling including technologies relevant to root cause analysis on the one hand, and accounting and billing on the other. The traditional approach of viewing the network as plumbing will finally give way to the recognition that the network is a delivery system that can shape, monitor and help to ensure the performance of critical business services.

"The focus of network management moves from 'is the device up and running?' to 'how well is the customer being served?'" said Richard L. Ptak, vice president, Hurwitz Group. "Solution providers unable to monitor, manage, and report on traffic by application, by user and through the web interface will scramble to stitch together an integrated view of the delivery of a business service. The state of the devices matters only to the extent that any single device straddles the critical path to achievement of the business objective."

Getting Down To Business

Another area of reoccurring speculation among analysts is how businesses will use technology in the year ahead. Predictions on this subject covered areas from toolsets to outsourcing and more.

"Through 2001 we will continue to see the convergence of network management, systems management, and applications management," said Corey Ferengul senior program director, Service Management Strategies, META Group. "The convergence will be mostly in the toolsets, which will lead to organizations potentially purchasing overlapping technology. While the tools are converging, the end users will obtain a greater view into the actual operation of their enterprise, with application level root cause analysis quickly becoming feasible."

"No longer will organizations be content to manage network, systems, and applications as separate functional domains," said Jerald Murphy, vice president of Global Networking Strategies, META Group. "As business becomes increasingly dependent on the performance and reliability of the IT infrastructure, successful IT managers will integrate metrics from all three domains to determine how they perform together to deliver business functionality. This will be increasingly challenging, as one or more of these domains is likely to be outsourced to an external service provider."

Market Projections and New Directions

Overwhelmingly, analysts’ predictions for the network management market for 2001 are very promising. Additionally, some analysts see new directions forming, and old problems lingering.

"After sluggish revenues in 2000, the network management market in 2001 will see movement in several directions," said Bill Gassman, Senior Analyst, GartnerGroup. "On the technology front, layer 2 network topology discovery and root cause analysis solutions will mature to the point where most enterprises can deploy it. Quality of service provisioning and accounting will continue to emerge, but broad acceptance will occur beyond 2001. Consolidations are likely, as vendors focused on system and ebusiness management acquire the network management technology that they are missing."

"IP-services will introduce a highly sensitive type of network traffic into enterprise and service provider environments in 2001 and beyond," Paul Bugala, Research Analyst, IDC. "Managing new IP applications will force service level management vendors to embrace new service metrics, while retaining the reporting, analysis and tuning strengths of traditional network performance management."

"Imagine the public phone network in 1942: you pick up a phone and hear a live operator ask ‘Number please?’ If we still had manual switchboards today we'd need twice the US population working as operators to handle our call volume," said William A. Flanagan, Program Director, Burton Group. "Now think about provisioning a data circuit -- call the service provider and hear ‘Order please?’ Service providers can't install data fast enough unless automated management systems let users ‘direct dial’ connections when wanted."