One of the most dramatic and oddly under-addressed types of network context is topological awareness.Topologies can sometimes be misleadingly reassuring if they are rigid and overly simplistic. However, if they are adaptive to change and clear in their parameters, they may not only provide a map for looking at infrastructure and business behaviors, but also indicate relevance and interdependence, and capture histories of change that can be mapped directly to security, optimization, service planning and, of course, persistent problems that require in-depth troubleshooting.It\u2019s too bad that something like topological context doesn\u2019t exist for statesmen and psychologists. IT should count itself lucky that topological insights are set to become an area of significant innovation, thanks to companies like Collation.Collation\u2019s Confignia can set the stage for multi-dimensional problem-solving across a full application service ecosystem, including network, system and application components. That begs the question, however: Is there such a thing as a universal enabling topology that will over time become a required part of all next-generation management platforms? And if so, what would that topology comprise?I don\u2019t know the answer. Such a topology would presumably reflect all seven layers of the OSI stack, including transient \u201ctopologies\u201d such as those captured by route analytics. It would become a multi-dimensional movie of everything from cable breakages to behavioral patterns among business consumers that suggest new service requirements.Collation\u2019s Confignia doesn\u2019t do all of this, but of course nothing else does, either. However, what immediately caught my attention was that Collation brought within its organization both Operations Support Systems expertise from the carrier environment and strong data center expertise. This mix of insights on what topologies - and other controversial terms, such as \u201cprovisioning\u201d - might mean, should bode well for Collation.Moreover, Confignia is designed - as it should be - with rich integration points for other management products. Collation recognizes that it has created an enabling technology that could support a wide number of management applications.The core of Confignia is a configuration management database (CMDB) that stores core information about runtime infrastructure components, their sub-components, their relationship to other components, versions of those components, and associated documentation.Confignia can discover topology on request, at prescheduled intervals (say, every night at 2 a.m.), or in direct response to pre-defined events, such as opening or closing a trouble ticket. To do this, Confignia uses sensors to inform a Data Center Reference Model. These sensors allow for \u201cagent-free\u201d discovery. They can also import third-party monitoring events, from BMC Patrol, CA Unicenter, HP OpenView, IBM Tivoli, Micromuse Netcool and Nagios. And while Confignia has sensors for database, server, application and network elements that would address more than 80% of what\u2019s installed in most environments, Collation provides a kit for developing custom sensors.The Collation Application Status Manager (CASM) puts the impact of events in topological context. This it can do in multiple dimensions. For instance, it can recognize when a Web server is degraded in a cluster, even if the cluster still functions. It can also recognize that a degraded database may affect an application server, but not vice versa. And it can provide cross-tier insights - say, a host\u2019s non-functional network port affects the host and therefore the networked applications resident on that host.IT buyers like the fact that Confignia can isolate complicated interrelationships, including many-to-many relationships between components such as servers - and also like the fact that Confignia provides a central point of reference for collaborating across different IT organizational silos. Confignia is in use to help provide superior service availability, as well as service planning, monitoring and auditing.According to Collation, Confignia typically starts around $100,000.