Management software goes for the big picture

Enterprise users with more than one network management platform have never had a good way to tie them together -- but that's beginning to change.

Two vendors this week will release software that promises to give IT managers a single view into multiple management systems. Start-up Managed Object Solutions will unveil its Formula software, which can provide a single front end for many different platforms, including Hewlett-Packard OpenView, Tivoli NetView, Cabletron Spectrum, Computer Associates Unicenter TNG, BMC Patrol and others.

Separately, Opticom will extend its reporting software -- which up until now has worked only with Spectrum -- to pull data from other management platforms.

The announcements support a trend toward unifying management data from different tools. Last week, Lucent's recently acquired International Network Services business introduced a new front end to its disparate tools (see story, page 38), and Compuware bought CACI International to join its own management data collector with CACI's network modeling tool.

"We want an end-to-end view of an environment. The hardware, the applications, the performance -- the whole ball of wax," says Bob Phipps, assistant vice president of enterprise systems management architecture at Bank of America. The bank is using Formula to unify its Tivoli software and BMC Max/Enterprise to see the full extent of network problems.

"A lot of times you may have a slow link or a server hiccup," Phipps says. "It's great that you know that - but do you know what it impacts?"

Managed Object Solutions' Formula software has an object request broker (ORB) for each management system with which it works. The ORBs feed data back to a management engine, which correlates the data and presents whatever information the management platforms provide. This way, systems and network information can be shown in the same place, for instance.

Formula, which costs about $100,000, also lets users take action on the network the same way they could with the individual management tools. If a tool lets a user reconfigure a router, for example, the user can still do that through Formula.

As for Opticom, the company is extending its Executive Information System (EIS) reporting software to accept data from management tools aside from Spectrum. To that end, the company has published a data format that its software can read. A user, vendor or integrator simply has to write a program to translate from a management tool's format to this open data format, and EIS can generate a report on that data.

Opticom has written a program to translate data from OpenView Network Node Manager, and programs for other platforms will follow.

The new version of EIS is available now for Network Node Manager 6.0, with pricing starting at $15,000.

Both vendors' activities mirror the standards effort under way in the Distributed Management Task Force. That group is working on the Common Information Model (CIM), a standard way of representing management data. CIM will make it easier to collect data from multiple sources.

Both vendors point out that support for CIM is scarce right now, and customers can use their products to unite management systems without waiting for the standard to be widely implemented. Once CIM is in place, it can be used as just another input, the vendors say.

This story, "Management software goes for the big picture" was originally published by Network World.

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