10 IT management technology start-ups to watch

Editor's note: Starting Nov. 30, we'll reveal two this year's IT Management Companies to Watch per day, through Dec. 4. So stay tuned (and if you get antsy waiting, check out last year's list)

IT operations teams short on staff and budget dollars this past year have turned to myriad management technologies to deliver optimized services in increasingly virtualized and cloud computing-oriented environments. Quite a few of those technologies come from relative newcomers to the industry, and we've rounded up profiles on 10 of them worth watching into the new year.

Company: Windmill Networks 

Founded: April 2007

Headquarters: Huntsville, Ala.

Focus: Windmill Integration Manager (WIM) installs as a VMware virtual appliance that includes a data correlation engine, which translates and reconciles information collected from multiple third-party management applications. WIM would highlight the configuration inconsistencies between tools and potentially point to configuration or other errors that could prevent future performance problems. The software also enables network managers to make a change in one application and have it propagated across many tools, the company says.

Why it's worth watching: Industry watchers say Windmill is filling a gap in many network managers' tool boxes, which would help to reduce labor and time spent configuring devices and applications. Much research has shown that many performance degradations and actual failures occur due to configuration errors.

"This tool provides a common, single interface to do configuration work and moves, adds and changes," says Enterprise Management Associates Research Director Jim Frey. "The technology would be ideal for IT managers not wanting to invest in a full-blown enterprise-scale, network change and configuration management product, which typically encompasses a lot more capabilities around compliance, for instance. Not every department needs the full-blown product."

How company got its start: Former Cisco network management employee saw the need to better manage device configurations across large networks, solving a common and critical IT manager frustration.

How company got its name: As for the company name being based on a Don Quixote reference to "tilting at windmills," or in layman's terms fighting an unwinnable battle, founders say it's a light-hearted take on a serious problem across the IT industry: Making applications from multiple vendors work smoothly together.

CEO: Fred Gray, also co-founder and CTO, previously spent 10 years at Cisco, specializing in operational and network management issues for enterprise and service provider customers.

Funding: Seed round of $500,000 from private investors.

Who's using the product: The company could not disclose customer names.

Company: layerX Technologies 

Founded: June 2006

Headquarters: Coppell, Texas

Focus: layerX offers two notable technologies. Its Arbitrator product provides integrated real-time event correlation capabilities and includes modules for security, network and systems management, log management, VoIP and convergence. The technology is said to automate key functions including problem remediation and complex network tasks such as dependent system and application recovery. Another aspect of the software includes a rapid indexing technology that allows for fast searches, but is also part of the company's free IT search offering, dubbed punq.

‘The ability to search through and analyze logs is the first step in network troubleshooting," the layerX Web site states, "and as such should be a widely available option for IT personnel."

Why it's worth watching: With punq, layerX provides an alternative to the IT management search tools offered from Splunk, both in free and commercial versions. Punq, or portable utility for network query, is an unlimited use, free application that lets IT managers search live and historical event logs, save search criteria, collect and securely store Syslog and SNMP events, and archive and restore historical capture data for long-term log analysis. Such features are critical to IT managers looking to reduce troubleshooting time by searching infinite data at high speeds, analysts say.

"Punq offers the ability to gather huge amounts of data and try to make sense of it based on a time stamp. It is not an overly sophisticated technology, but if you know what information you need, this type of tool picks up loads of data and helps you make sense of it faster," says David Williams, research vice president at Gartner. "Search as a general mechanism to identify issues has become popular in a short period of time and I expect this type of technology will become an underlying element that many will apply in many management tools."

How company got its start: The founders met in early 2006 as part of a consulting engagement looking for a way to productize their technology, and the relationship evolved into the creation of layerX and its subsequent acquisition by Shared Technologies.

How company got its name: Aside from being the personal e-mail for company co-founder and CTO Keith Hayes, layerX represents the product's ability to bring a new layer of intelligence to the network.

CEO: Tony Parella, president and CEO of Shared Technologies, which acquired the layerX assets in April 2007. Glenn Means serves as president of layerX and previously worked at NEC Unified Solutions.

Funding: Privately funded as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Shared Technologies

Who's using the product: Coventry and Carousel are among the company's customers.

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This story, "10 IT management technology start-ups to watch" was originally published by Network World.

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