Management vendors are ready to step up at Interop (all the headlines from the show) to address customer demands for more proactive management of critical network services, and give network teams tools to better assess application performance.Companies such as Apparent Networks and NetScout are among the network management vendors that plan to make announcements at the show, and specifically, that have included application-centric features in their products to help customers better manage critical business services. While monitoring network performance remains the primary concern, many network managers also need to understand how applications use a network and how the services it delivers perform on user machines.Also: Vendors look to ease compliance management"Application-centric networking is a big area of concentration at Interop this year," says George Hamilton, director of enterprise computing and networking at the Yankee Group. "The more enterprise companies get into voice and wireless, the more they need application-aware management tools. And there are some elegant solutions, like Apparent Networks, that can help customers get a picture of what's on their network and take accurate performance measurements."Apparent Networks plans to make available software called AppCritical, which costs about $100,000. The company took the technology of its AppareNet flagship offering \u2014 typically used to test networks for application deployment, troubleshoot problems and optimize configurations \u2014 and added a real-time monitoring element. Instead of running at scheduled times, AppCritical sends packets every few minutes across a network and analyzes returning data to determine network latency, application response times and jitter, for instance. It includes software installed on a dedicated server as well as distributed bits of software \u2014 what Apparent calls sequencers \u2014 installed on a few key servers in data centers."What is really interesting is that it can provide proactive monitoring and lets us know of a potential problem before we hear about it from a client," says Jimmy Brown, vice president of network services at Affiliated Computer Services, in Dallas. Brown intends to deploy AppCritical this summer to support 115 client networks.Martin Webb, manager of data network operations for the province of British Columbia, in Victoria, also plans to purchases licenses and get the software in place over the next few months."The difference between the real-time event monitoring I have and Apparent Networks is that AppCritical is constantly taking measurements of actual performance on the network and letting me then set thresholds," Webb says.He also intends to investigate new analytics technology from NetScout, which the company plans to announce at Interop."We're not a customer now, but the idea of the deep analytics piques my interest," he says.NetScout is scheduled to showcase an appliance it developed from technology acquired last year with Quantiva, which offered a Web analytics service. NetScout used the technology to design nGenius Analytics, which, when employed with the vendor's nGenius Performance Manager software and distributed probes, can use network performance metrics collected across an enterprise to help IT managers get a better picture of end-to-end application performance management. Available now, nGenuis Analytics costs about $65,000.The appliance is installed in "domains" that could be defined as topological, geographical or logical, for example, if a group of servers and a router support a critical business application. The appliance gets feeds of data from other NetScout tools and third-party systems via APIs, performs its analysis on the application flow data and then generates alerts based on aggregated data. NetScout says the product will help IT managers more quickly diagnose the source of performance problems and repair them before customers experience degradation in service."It would be ideal to not have to look at reams of data to troubleshoot problems, to have tools that provide some analysis to start and I could go beyond that," Webb says.