HP advances OpenView into proactive network management

* HP OEMs Voyence for network configuration management

Last week HP announced the OpenView Network Configuration Manager. The product is the result of an OEM agreement with Voyence and helps makes HP the first enterprise management platform vendor to engage in a formal business commitment to network change and configuration beyond purely technical integrations. (Cisco, in network management, announced an OEM relationship with Opsware earlier this year - and will soon be introducing a major change management initiative - so this isn't the first public mention of an OEM in network configuration across the full IT management marketplace.)

HP's is both making a business commitment to the network change and configuration management (NCCM) market and enhancing an integration that already exists at an event-level between Voyence's Control NG (Next Generation) and HP OpenView Network Node Manager. Through the OpenView Network Configuration Manager, network managers seeking to relate shifts in network performance and availability with recent changes made to the infrastructure will have an integrated set of navigational options to do so. HP is also investing in correlation capabilities to tie configuration changes with service delivery issues so that the linkages become more quickly and readily visible.

Since 60% (conservatively - some instances have documented as high as 90%) of service performance and availability issues are due to configuration changes, this integration makes sense. It is a smart move and HP can be expected to tighten the integration to support more effective troubleshooting navigation so that problems across the network can be resolved in context with non-policy compliant configuration actions - including those numerous instances of human error, and those very real instances of security-related threats. The integration also supports HP's directions in compliance management through new capabilities for change audits and access control.

Later this year, HP will move ahead with an OpenView Service Desk integration that will provide solid workflow options for integrating network change and configuration into IT operations more broadly, such as in support of lifecycle asset and capacity planning. HP is also looking to integrate network configuration into a broader change and configuration management system through ties with its Radia-based systems configuration management functionality and through the evolution of its Active CMDB.

What does this mean to the marketplace? The NCCM market is a strategic one that's dominated by four vendors: Alterpoint, Intelliden, Opsware and Voyence. A fifth vendor, Emprisa, also deserves to be mentioned as functionally, it is in the same category as the others although still a relative newcomer. And CA has stated informally that it is looking to enter the NCCM fray with an enhanced version of what is actually the oldest existing player - Spectrum Configuration Manager. There are also other vendors with unique offerings that support network change and configuration that deserve to be mentioned here and these include: Netcordia, Opnet, Tripwire and Uplogix.

The NCCM market is strategic because network configuration directly impacts a number of disciplines including change management, incident and problem management, security, IT governance and compliance management (compliance is where the biggest budget is a fact not lost on the marketing efforts of all of these vendors), asset management, capacity management and service provisioning and service planning. The fact that the IT Infrastructure Library's notion of a Configuration Management Database (CMDB) provides a foundation for what turns out to be, in the end, virtually all management disciplines is not mere coincidence or sophistry - given the above. Visualizing, auditing, delivering change (what ITIL would call Release Management), enforcing policy, documenting existing configurations and providing a history of past configurations turns out to be at the very heart of making IT management more proactive.

Far from simply being about device maintenance or a mundane effort to keep up with a phantasm of patches, NCCM - and configuration management in general - allows IT to progress beyond phase one reactive management to more proactive approaches more than any other single management software technology. This assumes - and the assumption is a large one - that the configuration software technology is adopted through policies that conform to more advanced processes for change management and control. Without these policies or processes in place, NCCM and other configuration management machines can turn into lethal weapons, automating bad decisions rather than optimizing good ones.

EMA is excited about the potential for HP and Voyence to combine for a tighter coupling in resolving and troubleshooting infrastructure and service problems as impacted by configuration change. The OEM relationship should put pressure on some of HP's competitors to follow suit. EMA would also look forward as HP leverages the relationship for a more integrated approach to change management overall, across network, systems and the broader infrastructure, as well as to consolidate strengths in asset management, compliance, security and HP's Active CMDB initiative.

The values of configuration management as a whole are, after all, primarily strategic and process-centric - they grow in scope by touching other disciplines and other domains. Much like application dependency mapping, or topological discovery more broadly, configuration management is a catalytic discipline - a transformer - something almost like sunlight to a garden. One doesn't get the full value by cutting holes in a tarp to shed light on just one tomato at a time. It is to HP's credit that its commitments to network change and configuration underscore this broader vision.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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