How to dramatically cut costs on network performance monitoring

The economic downturn and reduced IT budgets are forcing many network managers to look for alternative (read that as "cheaper") products and solutions for managing their networks. If you find yourself in this boat, then read on about a performance and availability monitoring solution that competes with the enterprise products from companies such as CA, IBM, HP and BMC Software. At the same time, this solution is saving its users hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars.

The economic downturn and reduced IT budgets are forcing many network managers to look for alternative (read that as "cheaper") products and solutions for managing their networks. If you find yourself in this boat, then read on. This article is about a performance and availability monitoring solution that competes with the enterprise products from companies like CA, IBM, HP and BMC Software. At the same time, this solution is saving its users hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars.

Do you find that savings number hard to believe? So did I when I first talked to the executives at Nimsoft, purveyors of software for service-level management and business-service management. Then I talked with Scott Crowder, the vice president of the Internet Services Division of Blackbaud. Crowder is responsible for data center operations at Blackbaud, a $300 million company that services more than 20,000 nonprofit organizations (NPOs) around the world. Blackbaud's software helps the NPOs raise funds through donations made online, so Blackbaud's Web applications are mission-critical.

Blackbaud operates four major data centers in North America, and it has just acquired another in The Netherlands. Each of the North American data centers has about 20 racks holding thousands of servers that process the donation transactions and run online marketing applications and e-mail processes. Crowder's team monitors the performance and availability of the servers to ensure that the business applications are always available and performing within specific service levels.

About two years ago, Blackbaud adopted the Nimsoft Monitoring Solution (NMS, formerly called NimBUS) in one of its divisions. The results were so good that Blackbaud adopted NMS across the entire enterprise, displacing two other enterprise monitoring tools that had been in place for years. Crowder says the tools that Blackbaud took out had onerous licensing terms that made it cost prohibitive to scale the solutions when needed. The annual maintenance fees alone were very costly. What's more, the old tools didn't offer all the features Blackbaud needed.

Crowder estimates that Blackbaud saved about $750,000 on the initial purchase of the Nimsoft software versus the other tools. The company is realizing annual savings on maintenance in the range of $50,000 to $60,000, or possibly even more.

While the savings have been tremendous, Crowder says he's pleased with the capabilities that NMS delivers. "I spoke to my Network Operations Center control manager when we first installed NimBUS," Crowder says. "He said he was able to get about 90% of our monitoring needs up and running within a week or two. The ease of operation is self-evident because we did this without professional services help."

Crowder says one of the most beneficial features is the business service management (BSM) dashboard. Blackbaud is using Nimsoft software to roll out a multi-phase BSM strategy. "Nimsoft's BSM dashboard gives us a holistic view of how our operations impact our business," Crowder says. "For example, we might have a Web server farm of 50 servers. Say three or even five of those servers go down. We lose 10% of our capacity. Overall for the business, this is not a big deal. If we were just monitoring the servers, we'd be very concerned about losing five of them. But putting it in the business context, our control center can prioritize what to work on first."

At a time when many software companies are experiencing flat sales, Nimsoft's business is growing. Much of the appeal is the big cost differential between NMS and products such as HP OpenView, BMC Patrol, CA Unicenter and IBM Tivoli. Because the "Big Four" companies sell individual modules to perform different parts of the performance and availability monitoring and BSM, customers are forced to buy and implement more products in order to get the same functionality as they get from Nimsoft. For example, you might need as many as 19 separate modules from CA vs. two modules from Nimsoft – Nimsoft Monitoring Solution and Nimsoft BSM Express – to get the same functionality.

It takes resources to install and integrate those 19 modules. That's why the time to ROI for an enterprise implementation from the Big Four can be 18 to 24 months. By comparison, the average time to ROI with a Nimsoft implementation is six months.

Nimsoft has a broad spectrum of support for virtualization technologies and cloud computing. This support is growing ever more important as more applications are moving to virtual machines or to the cloud.

So, if the economy is forcing you to find ways to work within a lower IT budget, here's one option for cutting costs without cutting capabilities on network performance monitoring.

Learn more about this topic

Nimsoft acquires the assets of Cittio

Nimsoft, Indicatie join forces to take on the Big Four

Service-level management player gets VC funding

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