10 most powerful network management companies

Our look at the biggest players in the network management, um, world

network management

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Having a powerful network is increasingly a matter of managing it effectively, and some companies are better than others at helping with that. And as a major part of a market sector that IDC expects to reach $50 billion in annual revenues next year, network management products are more important than ever. Here’s our list – in no particular order – of the 10 most powerful firms in the world of network management, based on our own knowledge and consultations with researchers at Gartner, 451 Research and IDC.

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An obvious choice. No other single enterprise network company has the same reach, and while rivals continually challenge Cisco in individual sub-sectors, its dominance is difficult to question. Cisco seems to feel a bit threatened by the march of SDN, however, and has recently begun to push its own alternatives, dubbing them “Application-Centric Infrastructure.”  


Though Compuware’s fortunes haven’t been completely rosy of late – witness a public spat with co-founder Peter Karamanos over reported plans to sell the company to a hedge fund – its application performance management technology is still among the best in the business, according to the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant report, and the company spent $25.6 million on R&D in the last fiscal quarter in the hopes of staying there. Additionally, a recent deal with machine data analysis specialist Splunk may have broadened Compuware’s capabilities.


Need network management on a smaller scale? SolarWinds may very well be your best option. “Whereas previously network management was either provided by a network vendor (emphasizing its own devices) or from system management vendors (big sales, long and cumbersome deployment) SolarWinds took a Web model, offering small tools, free trials and credit card purchases,” explains 451 research director Peter Christy. The recent $103 million acquisition of Confio will add that company’s database performance management expertise to SolarWinds’ arsenal.


The extent of IBM’s presence in almost all corners of the business world is difficult to overstate. On the software end of the network management equation, the company is arguably the one to beat – Gartner said IBM had the biggest market share in the overall IT operations and management software market of any single company last year.


Much of Riverbed’s institutional expertise is focused on WAN optimization, which is a bit beyond the scope of this list – but the company’s acquisition of Opnet Technologies late last year makes it a qualifier. Riverbed’s move to combine Opnet with its existing Cascade business unit makes it a powerful player in the space – the new division’s revenues jumped from $13.5 million in the second quarter of 2012 to $53.4 million in the same part of 2013 - and an Enterprise Management Associates study rated its future prospects quite highly.

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CA is a network management stalwart, but not one that’s interested in resting on its laurels. The company recently signaled its intention to reach new markets with its introduction of a free version of its Nimsoft Monitor product, which may bring new customers into CA’s extensive ecosystem. CA also officially opened its Silicon Valley Technology Center earlier this month, stating that it plans to bolster its workforce in the area by 50%.

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Another veteran company that’s looking to the future is HP, which has continued to add new capabilities to its Intelligent Management Center and only recently rolled out a new OneView converged infrastructure product. The company’s continued corporate upheaval notwithstanding, HP remains a powerhouse in the sector, with IMC praised specifically in a recent report from Gartner. HP reported $644 million in quarterly networking revenue this summer.

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Along with automated network configuration products, BMC’s ITSM offerings make it an important part of the network management landscape. Having gone private this May in a $6.9 billion deal, the company’s end-user experience management product – provided in partnership with Akamai – is particularly well-regarded.


While VMware is obviously not a traditional network management player, its role in leading the charge toward cloud and SDN technology means that it’s a crucial influence on the way enterprise networks are managed. And with this week’s release of the company’s NSX network virtualization platform, VMware looks likely to get even more directly involved in the future.


NetScout is the largest dedicated vendor of network management software and appliances in the world by market share, according to a report published this summer by IDC. The researchers said that the company grew five times faster than the market average in 2012, and appears well-positioned for the future.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.