Net Management Expands

Small vendors push new multivendor configuration tools.

Four vendors in the fledgling multivendor network configuration management space have brought out new releases of their competing offerings.

Rendition Networks, Alterpoint Inc., Gold Wire Technology Inc. and Voyence Inc. may be on the same development cycles, but the market is heating up. IDC analyst Stephen Elliot estimates IT departments will spend $150 million to $225 million on multivendor network configuration tools this year. "The markets getting a lot more attention," said Elliot, in Framingham, Mass.

The increasing sophistication of the tools is matched by increasing market acceptance as IT recognizes the value of a more streamlined, automated approach to change management of heterogeneous network devices. Enterprise Management Associates Inc. estimates that more than half of all network availability or performance problems are rooted in configuration errors, said Dennis Drogseth, vice president of the Portsmouth, N.H., research company.

Even for network operations that have well-documented processes for change management, without automated tools, the tasks are manually intensive and error-prone, said Rendition user Dave Gunnarson, manager of technical services at Travelers Express Moneygram Inc., in Minneapolis. "If someone leaves from my group and we want to change passwords, we have to go out and do it on 200 devices. Thats a nightmare," Gunnarson said.

Although network managers have asked for support for multivendor device configuration, network equipment manufacturers have offered only configuration tools for their own products. Only Nortel Networks Ltd., of Brampton, Ontario, has acknowledged the need for multivendor support. It announced last month that Rendition, of Redmond, Wash., is its preferred provider for network configuration control.

Nortel is positioning Renditions TrueControl software as a network security offering. In fact, TrueControl Version 3.0, announced last week, adds new patch management functions, automating device audits and network device operating system deployments across an entire network.

TrueControl Version 3.0 adds a new repository, dubbed Software Center, to streamline patch management and to provide a new Policy Assurance Manager to ensure devices are in compliance with corporate security policies.

Alterpoint, which last quarter closed its first six-figure deal covering up to 1,500 devices, according to President and CEO Jeff Ait, in Austin, Texas, addresses security patch management in its DeviceAuthority Suite. The software is repackaged to provide a server with its own real-time repository of configuration data and an audit module for reporting.


But beyond patch management, the tools also improve security by tracking what changes are made and by whom. By tracking changes made on network devices, network managers can see what a specific change is and who made it and compare the change with previous versions, according to Alterpoint user Matthew Stoyka, vice president of operations at management service provider Network Insight LLC, in San Diego. "That gives you a greater level of security," Stoyka said.

Gold Wire said it sees demand for its Formulator configuration management appliances coming from new auditing requirements. Gold Wire earlier this month expanded the appliances support for security compliance verification.

"Were starting to see CIOs looking for end-to-end security procedures to be followed for all components, both networks and systems. Customers are making larger purchases than in the past, driven by compliance and integrity assurance [issues]," said Jonathan Wolf, executive vice president of production operations at Gold Wire, in Waltham, Mass. By Gold Wires reckoning, the market for network configuration management tools is growing at 100 percent per year.

While Gold Wire in its Formulator upgrade emphasizes the ability to demonstrate compliance with the ISO 17799 standard for information security controls, Renditions Policy Assurance Manager module in TrueControl ensures devices are in compliance with corporate policies.

Gold Wire, Alterpoint and Voyence expanded the range of network devices their products support. Alterpoint said it manages configurations for 20 network equipment manufacturers and 340 product models.

Along with the expanded device support, Voyence, of Richardson, Texas, earlier this month added the ability in its VoyenceControl Version 2.3 to segment and view devices by physical location or logical grouping. The release can also validate changes before they are deployed and then verify devices are working properly once the changes are made.

All the upgraded tools will be available by months end.