Net Optics acquires nMetric, targets network intelligence

Net Optics' recent acquisition of network analytics software provider nMetric is a move to satisfy demand for tools to gather and analyze data on activity across enterprise networks

In a move to broaden its offerings for the growing network intelligence and diagnostics market, telecom equipment manufacturer Net Optics recently announced the acquisition of network analytics software provider nMetric.

Net Optics acquired nMetric through its purchase of sister company Triplelayer, an Australian distributor. And although Net Optics CEO Bob Shaw sees Triplelayer's positive standing in the Australian, New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets as an advantage to Net Optics' growth, the network monitoring tools are what he believes will have the largest impact for customers.

FORESIGHT: Analysts predict acquisitions in WAN optimization, network intelligence markets

Shaw cited customers' rising security and bandwidth concerns as main reasons for the acquisition. He says enterprise customers had grown concerned about threats lurking on network access points that were going unused.

"Where we saw a gap is in many cases there were customers that would have the Net Optics product and they wouldn't have enough budget to have it plugged into every location where they had one of our access products -- and yet they were concerned that they needed to have a health check and visibility to check all of those areas they weren't plugged into," Shaw says.

Both bandwidth and security topped the concerns of Net Optics customers, according to Shaw, and with recent trends driving more end users to high-bandwidth and high-risk behavior, this trend appears set for growth.

"You can have this product sitting in line, it's in the network, and what we've seen in many cases is they're using it in remote branch sites," Shaw says. "So what will happen is they'll say, 'We're starting to see a spike in traffic, what's going on?' And they'll be able to drill down and you can actually see the bandwidth that's being used for Google, YouTube and Facebook. And you can drill down another level and see who the users are."

Shaw says the ability to identify which users are putting pressure on the network is becoming highly valued, for both compliance and protection against insider threats.

"One of the things that we've seen as a need is, 'How are you able to anticipate issues before they occur?' And, 'How are you able to deal with them quickly when they do?'" Shaw says. "Most folks would say the opportunity to build an absolutely flawless and secure network is nirvana. What you need to do is build a network that gives you visibility and allows you to proactively respond and anticipate challenges before they occur -- and heaven forbid they do, how can you take action quickly?"

By acquiring nMetric and incorporating network monitoring and analytics tools into its products, Net Optics is targeting a market for which many in the industry have forecasted rapid growth. According to an IDC report published earlier this month, overall spending on network equipment is set to grow 8.7% this year, up from just 3.8% in 2011. As a result, IDC's report predicted "network intelligence becomes strategic" in 2012 as IT managers will devote larger portions of their budgets to network performance and security.

Cindy Borovick, research vice president for IDC's Enterprise Communications and Datacenter Network services, predicted acquisitions like this as a result of growing customer demand for network intelligence solutions. Several emerging trends, which Borovick believes will gain momentum in 2012, have put higher value on network intelligence tools and made those that provide them more valuable as acquisition targets.

"When you think about the strategic importance of the enterprise network and the connectivity out to customers, partners, taking advantage of cloud services, or even just using your own internally owned data centers to create an active-active [network] or an overall disaster recovery strategy, there's a real focus on that WAN architecture," Borovick says. "And we believe the combination of network intelligence and WAN expertise is really going to start to change. We'll start to see some vendor changes and acquisitions."

Other analysts have seen similar trends driving increases in network investments. Daniel Kennedy, research director for information security at TheInfoPro, says the ability to peer into the network and gather analytics is essential for IT managers either preparing for future spending on network equipment or analyzing the impact of expenses already made.

"Obviously there is a clear delineation between determining where network bottlenecks are as a business case to justify WAN optimization expenditures, as well as to measure how any implemented solutions are working," Kennedy says.

According to Shaw, the market for these tools will be where Net Optics will reap what it has sown in the nMetric acquisition, which he believes was a quick move to get in on a market that may not go underserved for much longer.

"There's a real gap in that there's nobody that's providing this for remote branch sites," Shaw says. "So if you look at how diverse organizations are spread out, it's a new market that nobody is selling products into."

Colin Neagle covers Microsoft security and network management for Network World. Keep up with his blog: Rated Critical, follow him on Twitter: @ntwrkwrldneagle. Colin's email is cneagle@nww.com.

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