Singlestep: From Rock to NOC

Company's object-oriented environment manages integration of networks.

A small Seattle company that made a name for itself with an easy-to-use central operating system for managing stadium lighting and sound has morphed that technology into a network management integration system.

Singlestep Technologies Corp. officially rolled out its Unity system last week. Unity pools network and device data from disparate network management systems into an easy-to-use, object-oriented environment.

Within that environment, network managers can set policies and actions and run network reports from data pulled from Hewlett-Packard Co.s OpenView, Cisco Systems Inc.s Ciscoworks and the open-source Syslog network management systems.

The companys goal, according to President and CEO Chris Noble, is to streamline the network management process by tying together disparate systems—a la EAI (enterprise application integration) tools—and funneling data into a manageable interface.

"Youre always doing the [network] polling," Noble said. "It almost becomes an EAI solution. Its a very similar scene. [Management of disparate systems is] a problem for anyone doing swivel-chair management."

At least one early user agrees. "Itll lessen the overall workload," said Danny Pickford, director of engineering at Speakeasy Inc., a national digital subscriber line provider, also in Seattle. Pickfords been working with Singlestep for about six months. "The thing thats most exciting is root-cause analysis, he said. "To get a historical picture to see whats going on, you have to look up multiple, different systems. [Unity enables us] to take those data sources and pull all that data and put it in one place."

One key component of Unity is Event Tracker, which monitors devices and policies in real time to alert network managers of network problems, both real and potential.

The system comes with a handful of built-in policies, including filtering policies, for dropping nonessential messaging, and aggregating policies, for aggregating like messages into a single message. Also included is an "additional info request" policy that combines policy and action and lets managers create a specific event message that automatically queries a device and then returns additional information about that device.

At the core of the software is the companys object-oriented VNOS (Visual Network Operating System).

Pronounced "venus," VNOS was developed about 14 years ago to help stadium sound and lighting staff better manage the myriad devices of both technologies during such programs as rock concerts and sporting events.

One early user was General Motors Place, in Vancouver, British Columbia, which opened its 19,000-plus stadium about seven years ago. When it did, it had the VNOS system monitoring the electronics. "Wow! I thought, Thats really overkill," said Victor Araujo, director of broadcast and technical service at the stadium. "I thought you didnt need something that fancy. But now Im pretty grateful they did."

Singlestep, which is privately funded and employs 28, sells directly and handles all installations and customer training. According to Noble, the software can be installed in less than two days and customers trained in one 8-hour session.

A single Unity server costs $75,000. In addition, every installation of Unity ships with 10 seats of VNOS.