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HP overhauls Network Node Manager

HP overhauls Network Node Manager

Upgrades network management software long thought the cornerstone of software portfolio.

An IT tool synonymous with network management is getting its first major overhaul in four years. More than 90 percent of the code in Network Node Manager i 8.0 is new and available free to customers with valid support licenses, according to HP.

The vendor this week is set to share details of NNM i 8.0, which HP officials say "reinvents and redefines network management." HP says more than 10,000 customers use NNM. IDC listed HP as the market leader, with more than 28 percent  share, and the vendor reported US$757 million in revenue for distributed performance and availability management software.The product, said to have the largest installed base of customers worldwide, now includes features that more quickly identify the root cause of performance problems by using a combination of ongoing discovery processes, event correlation and automation capabilities, HP says.

"We certainly have thought about our installed base in the development of this product, and we focused on solving existing problems and delivering on unmet needs in this release," says Joe Fox, HP product marketing manager.

For instance, the product is able to run parallel with previous NNM deployments, which Fox says will make upgrading to NNM i 8.0 more efficient. It scales to support up to 15,000 managed devices with one install of an application server and database on a dedicated machine. (Network managers can choose to use separate servers for the application server and database software installation.) NNM i 8.0 requires no software agents be distributed to managed devices, and instead uses SNMP and Internet Control Messaging Protocol to collect data via polling. And network managers can use a Web-based AJAX thin client to log on to the product for administrative reasons.

"This is a significant upgrade that will be positively greeted by its customers, and HP is not just playing catch-up," says Will Cappelli, a research vice president at Gartner. "The NNM customer base was getting restless, and HP was on the cusp of being too late with this, letting its infrastructure management capabilities lie fallow for the sake of bigger initiatives for the past few years. But frankly, the alternatives in the market didn't look great either."

For instance, competitive pure-play network management products from Micromuse (Netcool) and Aprisma Management Technologies (Spectrum) have been absorbed by HP competitors IBM and CA, respectively. And the latter vendors, like HP, have been focused on broader IT initiatives such as application performance, IT or business service management, essentially neglecting to upgrade or communicate clearly the product road map plans for their network management tools. This has left a void in the market that traffic and flow-based vendors such as NetScout and NetQoS couldn't fill.

"If HP waited any longer to make this upgrade, it would have been taking a serious risk in IBM or CA stabilizing and getting a hold of customers that have been paying HP maintenance fees on NNM for 15 years and not seeing results," Cappelli adds. That is part of the reason the upgrade to NNM i 8.0 is free for valid support license holders, he adds, because it will not only sweeten the deal but also prevent competitors from poaching HP's customer base.

And experienced customers who have had a sneak peek at the release say HP seems to have addressed major problems in NNM.

"HP has taken a core and useful product and made it more efficient and easy to use," says Jason Kennedy, a senior analyst and partner at Canadian IT consulting firm Tsunami. "Complaints I've always had from clients were around the learning curve and heavy console, and both of these are majorly cleaned up."

IT infrastructure supervisor Tracy Ames and Ed Kuklinkski, senior IT analyst, at Duquesne Light Company in Pittsburgh, started working with HP as beta customers of NNM i 8.0, replacing IBM NetView to manage some 200 servers and 300 network devices. The product today is addressing dual concerns for the IT staff there: ease of deployment and maintenance, and automated root-cause analysis.

"It was very simple to understand and install for me, and I have just a bit of background in networks," Kuklinkski says.

Ames adds,"Root-cause analysis was the main feature we were looking for because the previous product we had in place always promised it and never delivered. We have a small staff, and the more we can empower them to solve level-one and other problems without having to call the vendor, the less of a burden it is on our team."


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