Concord's Jack Blaeser describes e-business management strategy
HEWLETT-PACKARD, Computer Associates, BMC, and Tivoli are widely considered to be the leading providers of network management applications, but the truth is, there is an equally strong fifth player. Concord Communications has emerged as a significant force in performance analysis tools. In October, Concord further enhanced the position with a deal to acquire Empire Technologies, which provides tools that can be used to analyze network-aware e-business applications. Jack Blaeser, CEO of Concord, talked with InfoWorld Editor in Chief Michael Vizard about what's next for Concord.
InfoWorld: What drove the merger?
Blaeser: It's the first of several you'll see us making as we implement our vision. We have to take advantage of a paradigm shift we see taking place in the industry, which will open up an opportunity for us to create a very large software company. With the advent of e-business, downtime of any length of time is not tolerable. So what's required is performance-management software. We want to provide the next generation of management software that enables e-business. To do that, you have to span systems, applications, networks, and network services -- and in order to do that, we have to expand.
InfoWorld: How big are you today?
Blaeser: We have over 3,000 customers using our product to manage their information technology infrastructure. It gives us a nice, strong base to go from, but it's not enough. If we want to supply an e-business solution, we have to move into the applications, business-process, ... and systems arena. That's what Empire does. In a space of a few years, they've accumulated over 200 customers such as Morgan Stanley, Cisco, Alcatel, US Web, and Bank of America.
InfoWorld: What do they provide?
Blaeser: Their real technology is an auton-omous agent that sits on a server that's running an application. It monitors the performance of the server and the application. It can send information back to a platform like HP Open View to alarm it if something bad is happening out there. It can also send data back through a product like Concord that does historical reporting and planning based on the trends. And by itself, it can be programmed to take corrective action on-site. So if an application or process stops, it can automatically restart it. It's almost the start of a self-healing network, although it's a self-healing server. This is a tremendous technology. We think we found a jewel in the rough that we can polish and take advantage of. Customers can't afford to wait for the network to fail before they take action, because if the network is down for any length of time, they're losing millions and millions of dollars of revenue.
InfoWorld: What comes next?
Blaeser: You'll see us moving into the real-time, root-cause analysis arena, and then we'll have a complete solution for e-business. We think that if we execute properly, we will build a very large software company that really is a dominant player in what we call performance management.
InfoWorld: How big an entity do you have to be to accomplish that?
Blaeser: You have to manage the performance of the service provider between you and your customer. That means from the client, through his infrastructure, through the network services provided by some carrier, back to the infrastructure of the vendor, and up through the application vendor. You can then provide them a good performance-optimization tool to make sure that [the] performance the end-user sees is functioning well.
InfoWWorld: To what degree will you be able to do that?
Blaeser: Let's say your client performance is slowing down. We can identify which DNS server your carrier is providing that is not responding quickly. You have to differentiate among what is being caused by the application running on your server, what's being caused by your infrastructure, and what's being caused by the carrier's services.
InfoWorld: What will the role of the carriers be as it relates to the enterprise?
Blaeser: We see a trend where the service providers are trying to provide more and more of this service as a solution to their customers. We understand the enterprise problem, and that makes us more valuable to our service-provider customers as they move into this space. If they want to remain profitable, they can no longer just sell bandwidth. The price for voice is now three, four, or five cents a minute, and the cost of data is going down. They've got to provide more enhanced services. So you'll see service providers [offering] application-service hosting, Web-server hosting, managed-router service -- [all] total outsourcing solutions. What they are really doing is managing large enterprises.
InfoWorld: Will the voice and data functions within the enterprise merge then?
Blaeser: It has to happen, because the voice and data are merging ... quite quickly, and obviously voice is becoming a commodity. It's going to go over the same pipes that our data is [going] over. I think the internal organizations are going to have to merge ... to be competitive in the marketplace. The challenge for IT organizations will be to help their companies make a profit. IT has become a competitive weapon. IT can no longer be a utility that's there [just] because you have to have it. Large corporations who use IT as a weapon will win, and those who don't will lose. Business is dependent on how efficient the IT organization is [at] providing the services that you demand in order to run your business.
InfoWorld: Will your product emerge then as service, rather than a product you buy?
Blaeser: Our product is becoming delivered more and more as a total service. As we increase the size of our solution by going to business-process applications in real time, that will become more important for us. You'll see us as a company building our professional service organization out more aggressively than we imagined when we started the company. We will be providing our product more as a service, and our service-provider customers will be providing our product more as a service, because people are doing less and less in-house. In today's environment, if a degradation reaches your customer, he's no longer a customer. That's why you see a lot of enterprises going to managed services from carriers, because they just don't know how to keep up with all of this stuff.
InfoWorld: So what's the ultimate challenge then?
Blaeser: Ultimately what customers would like us to do is look at the entire IT and e-business model. What they'd like us to do is solve their problems automatically on a closed-loop, self-healing optimization process. Now technically there are some issues, but more importantly there [are] cultural issues, because people aren't anxious to let you go in and automatically change the traffic in their routers. They're obviously afraid you could blow up the whole network. But ultimately, we will optimize the network automatically.
Concord Communications Inc., in Marlboro, Mass., can be reached at www.concord.com.