NetScout Systems this week is giving its Common Data Model the ability to gather data via SNMP, as well as NetfFow data from Cisco and Extreme Networks and sFlow data from Foundry Networks. CDM is also getting network device support for other leading switches and routers.NetScout started CDM one year ago, when it unveiled Performance Manager 1.4. CDM has provided a common data store across multiple NetScout probe and agent sources, and now includes the new sources.With the new support, NetScout\u2019s products can enable performance-related management applications across a wide variety of disciplines, from capacity planning and reporting, to network and application monitoring and troubleshooting, to service-level management. Opnet\u2019s IT Guru, for instance, could leverage CDM for more effective infrastructure design and planning, or root-cause analysis engines could profit from CDM\u2019s data gathering.This year NetScout has significantly improved its nGenius System with the new nGenius Performance Manager 2.0 and Probe Firmware 6.0, which both include support for CDM. One of the enhancements, specific to CDM, is support for MIB2 information - an adapter for gathering and analyzing flow data from SNMP-enabled infrastructure elements (network and server devices).Another significant enhancement fulfills last year\u2019s promise to bring together nGenius Capacity Planner and nGenius Application Service Level Manager into the same core product architecture. Both of these functions are now integrated into Performance Manager 2.0, and both can now exploit the expanded data gathering capabilities of CDM with ad-hoc reporting.One of the core advantages of a unified approach to performance management is superior contextual analysis, and this fact isn\u2019t lost on NetScout. For instance, usage data by application and by QoS level can be combined in the same report with policy-based, time-related alerts (a snapshot in time) to help identify potential problems more effectively.With this in mind, NetScout has introduced what it calls \u201cworkspaces\u201d with \u201ctask flow automation.\u201d Simply put, this is an automated way to customize views and management services based on role and decision. Selected, interrelated views can be permanently captured and saved, and used to accelerate problem solving, planning and collaboration among IT personnel.In something of the same spirit, NetScout has also introduced what it calls \u201cPower Alarms\u201d and \u201cUniversal Response Time.\u201d Power Alarms automate data collection based on preset policies for event conditions. For instance, if a certain response threshold for a given application is exceeded for a certain time period, data collection and views supporting, say, who\u2019s using that application the most at that time can be automatically collected and displayed. In other words, an administrator will not only get an event condition, but also get predefined contextual information relevant to that event condition at the same time.NetScout\u2019s Universal Response Time combines capabilities for passive and active (synthetic) response information acquired through its NextPoint acquisition three years ago. Fortunately, NetScout is not averaging these two fundamentally different metrics, but instead provides an integrated view of both response conditions in a common format so administrators can see both with equal clarity in a time-sensitive context.Finally, NetScout is introducing a quick-start package, nGenius Express, that includes Performance Manager 2.0 as an appliance, a single probe (customer\u2019s choice), a year of maintenance, installation, training and service. List for this ranges between $70,000 and $90,000, compared to a starting price for just the nGenius Performance Manager 2.0 software at $50,000. This package actually is fairly extensible; even without a larger investment in probes, it can leverage mini-RMON, MIB2, SFLOW, NetFlow and other CDM-compliant data sources. NetScout expects both its channel partners and its initial customer \u201cevangelists\u201d to welcome this comparatively focused and simple way of getting started.Looking back a year, these announcements reflect solid progress for NetScout. The vision behind CDM is on target, and I am optimistic that NetScout\u2019s partnership initiatives for CDM will continue to bear fruit and that its commitment to maximize its advantages in \u201ccontextual management\u201d will remain on track.