Selecting the Right Management Product

There are dozens of different management tools out there. They range from open source tools to top-dollar commercial frameworks, but before you make a potentially career altering decision you will need to do some homework. It may be much more important not to select a tool by feature-set alone, but to understand the genesis of the underpinning technology.

In the 1990’s the art of monitoring networks and devices was generally referred to as network management. By the late 90’s it was largely referred to as Enterprise Management, with area specific segmentation forming at the systems, security, and application level. By the early 2000’s, Gartner defined the industry term IT Operations Management (ITOM), which essentially rolled-up most major elements of monitoring and management into a single category.

Identifying the evolution of the industry can help us better understand the natural segmentation that exists between each product. Every monitoring company starts out by solving a relatively small sub-set of problems for their customers. Subject matter expertise in one domain area runs deep through the veins of the company and people creating the technology. Over time product managers and developers enhance products to meet market demands and add features and functionality, which essentially broadens their market appeal.

A software company that starts primarily in networking may have a difficult time emerging into the system management or application management space. The problem is sometimes compounded by the fact that different vendors may or may not leverage all the same standards. For instance few virtualization platforms support SNMP, and no SaaS or cloud providers support SNMP. To get the most out of those technologies you need to code around web based API’s using XML and SOAP.

Development companies may also realize scale issues around database and capacity performance, access to skilled resources, and limited financial resources to fund new innovation. As software companies mature, more resources are aligned toward sustaining efforts (defects and bugs), and since companies don’t want to alienate their customer base or cannibalize revenue, product innovation can begin to slow. Towards the end of the company lifecycle, companies find innovation exceedingly difficult to achieve and will eventually either acquire alternate solution technologies, or become acquired. Over time it becomes more difficult to sustain the business model, leading to slower and slower innovation. Common sense suggests that companies whom have spent more time developing product around specific disciplines will likely provide a more solid and enriched solution in that area.

So the first question you may want to answer is, what technology problems did the vendor originally start-out to solve? Of course after that it’s all about your business requirements and budget!

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