Top 10 Enterprise Management Tools
March 03, 2008
Although large enterprise software vendors gobble up small ones, and even midsize vendors use acquisitions as a growth strategy, few organizations embrace single-vendor enterprise management. Those that do are often compelled by global sourcing and procurement arrangements that may not allow for a best-of-breed technology focus. We're here to help change this state of affairs. Of course, creating a Top 10 list is never easy, and this one won't apply to everyone: Different products cater to specific markets, and detailed requirements may cause an organization to favor a particular vendor. Price also is a factor. If you decide to buy at the end of a vendor's fiscal year, however, it might offer you a good enough deal that you can overlook a few shortfalls, or reach for a product you didn't think you could afford.
But enough caveats. To choose our Top 10 enterprise management tools, we divided the space into functional areas. Together, they represent the critical aspects of any truly comprehensive management infrastructure. We set out to pick systems that can scale in an enterprise environment and have the features needed to scale with a dynamic, growing organization.
Product: CA eHealth & Spectrum
Why We Love It: CA's eHealth & Spectrum, purchased from Concord in 2005, is a powerful one-two punch in the battle to ensure network availability and performance. While Concord eHealth was in the past dinged for a lack of customization and problems with scalability, CA has really stepped up to the plate and addressed these concerns while maintaining the product's ease of usability.
While other tools are strong in this market, CA balances scalability with maintainability to make eHealth something customers can maintain without an army of staff. It can manage a diverse collection of devices and isolate the source of performance degradation throughout the network. This will help enterprises minimize recurring WAN issues and provide consistent reporting across a heterogeneous infrastructure. Spectrum enables automated Layer 2/3 network discovery, monitoring, topology mapping, and root-cause analysis. As network events are received via SNMP traps, polling, or syslog, Spectrum can compare events to the topology model and determine relationships based on containment, connectivity, and reachability. Spectrum provides granular Layer 2/3 visibility down to the individual port and circuit for LAN, WAN, wired, wireless, physical, and virtual networks. It doesn't matter if you have ATM, Frame Relay, IP multicast, QoS, VoIP, or VPN technologies -- CA can monitor it all. Because eHealth and report-exception alarms are integrated seamlessly into Spectrum, you have everything you need, all in one screen. Area #:2 Consolidated Event Management
Why we love it: Under the Micromuse banner, Netcool has been one of the best-kept secrets of the telecom market for more than 10 years. Netcool OmniBus provides a consolidated view of enterprisewide events as well as status information. It collects event streams from just about any device (some joke that even toasters can be managed by Netcool) and presents a single, consistent view of the current state of all managed systems. It then distributes event information to the operators and administrators responsible for monitoring service levels, using Web-based consoles. For organizations with several different management platforms, Netcool can act as an overall manager of managers. The architecture of the product has allowed network operations departments to keep their network-centric services up and running 24/7 and it is used in NOCs around the world, regardless of network size and complexity. Netcool's ability to scale as networks expand truly separates it from the pack.
Netcool was designed specifically for IT service providers, such as xSPs, long-distance and local-exchange carriers, mobile service providers, and cable TV operators. ObjectServer is the core component of the Netcool application. It is a high-speed memory-resident database that collects fault information from throughout the network infrastructure and allows operators to create relationships between faults and the availability of network-based business services. Netcool collects fault and status data from a variety of network devices and management environments; these include SNMP devices, servers, mainframes, x86 systems, applications, circuit switches, voice switches, IP routers, and network management applications and frameworks, among many others. Enterprises will find Netcool a lifesaver when it comes to reducing the number of management screens that must be monitored. Area #3: Service Impact Monitoring
Product: IBM/Tivoli Business Service Manager and Service Level Advisor
Why We Love it: Events are great, but if you need to manage the ongoing health of services, processes, transactions, missions, and business activities, take a look at TBSM. After you define your service scorecards, KPIs, and SLA metrics, TBSM will help manage them, using Tivoli or just about any other NSM suite to provide data. IBM also uses a federated model to update service maps, so you can rely on an application discovery mapping or CMDB tool to populate needed information. Role-based views provide flexible and customizable visualization dashboards that can be defined based on user perspective, while scorecards automatically track the impact of issues in real time. Service status is calculated based on an understanding of service dependencies and behaviors, and TBSM works to pinpoint the actual impact of problems on overall service availability, performance, integrity and business activities.
This vendor-independent system can identify the specific causes of service problems across operational silos and dependencies, providing faster cross-domain resolution. A dynamic federated information model provides a flexible and standard way to map dependency information into a common data model. TBSM correlates underlying infrastructure elements needed for service modeling. By actively collecting dependency information from distributed and host-based data sources in real time, you get a true picture of the health of the overall service. Define SLAs with a wizard interface and manage via executive dashboard, and away you go. Area #:4: Application Discovery Mapping
Product: Tideway Foundation
Why We Love It: A big complaint around service impact monitoring -- Area #3 -- is that creation of services or maps requires manually modeling every single service. As the environment changes, these maps need to be updated again, manually. This isn't sustainable for enterprises of any size without an army of staff. Tideway Foundation automatically generates detailed business application dependency maps and populates them into your service impact monitoring tool. This speeds initial rollout and improves maintainability of the service impact monitor. Better yet, Foundation continually monitors the IT environment, detecting changes and automatically updating service maps. Bingo!
In addition to traditional applications, the product also can manage virtualized server environments. By mapping virtual servers to their physical hosts, end-to-end application dependencies remain clear. Dependency visualizations support change-impact analysis, reducing system outages and increasing service availability. Foundation also can help isolate the root cause of problems by mapping applications to the underlying physical and virtual infrastructure, thus identifying dependencies. Using Foundation's visual dependency maps, applications and stakeholders can be rapidly identified, improving communications and ensuring that appropriate resources are applied to reduce the overall mean-time-to-repair. Fixes now can be prioritized based on the criticality of the affected business process, minimizing the cost of outages and speeding recovery time.
Overall, a boatload of time can be saved, especially in large environments. Tideway can help organizations have confidence in their service maps and find root causes of outages quickly and efficiently while decreasing operational costs. Area #5: Business Intelligence
Why We Love It: While management data from IT systems is great, really effective organizations manage all of their business operating units by defined metrics. Because so much data resides in IT systems, organizations need a business intelligence system that not only grabs data from the IT operations environment but also can get information from sales, HR, CRM apps, and all other systems. Through the Cognos platform, organizations can manage risk issues, such as compliance, while maintaining a focus on the KPIs that drive the business, such as revenue growth, operating margin, and asset efficiency.
While reporting from siloed systems through a central reporting console heiris great, Cognos also has the ability to perform analytics across information caches to make meaningful sense from disparate data sources. Cognos stands out with its robust reporting, scorecarding, dashboarding and analysis capabilities that all rely on a SOA-based platform. With Cognos' ability to scale and open access to data, organizations can work to ensure the data quality that is critical for any BI system. While not quite point and click, modeling is as straightforward as possible, and competent staff will be able to work through the product with minimal training. For organizations that truly want to take a bite out of the competition and extend across IT systems, Cognos may be the answer. Area #6: ITSM Workflow, CMDB, And Service Desk
Product: BMC Remedy ITSM and Atrium
Why We Love It: The Remedy Action Request System provides a consolidated service process management platform for automating and managing business processes. As a pioneer in ITIL and with a top-notch workflow-based architecture, BMC empowers IT to create just about anything, including inventory, provisioning, service desk and other process-driven applications, using this platform. It also offers prebuilt modules for notifications, escalations, and approvals, as well as packaged applications to enable quick ramp-up. BMC Atrium CMDB Enterprise Manager offers a single, consolidated view of the IT infrastructure and establishes relationships among IT infrastructure components and their support of business services. A federated CMDB environment enhances scalability and maintainability. BMC also offers an Enterprise Integration Engine to integrate with the CMDB.
For enterprise service desks, Remedy is at the top of its game -- it's extremely flexible and scalable, so organizations can get up and running in a few weeks and look forward to a long relationship with the product. It integrates with just about every popular enterprise management system for auto-ticket generation. Fields can be customized to your heart's desire. Organizations embracing a best-practice methodology can mold Remedy to meet their requirements. While BMC offers a bunch of prepackaged modules, such as Help Desk, to get started, we like the base package, given its ease and flexibility. This is the gold standard for any enterprise organization. Area #7: Network & Systems Configuration Management
Product: Hewlett-Packard Automation (formally Opsware NAS/SAS)
Why We Love It: If you need to enforce policies, standardize operations, and meet network compliance in an enterprise environment, look no further. HP's Network Automation (formerly Opsware NAS), helps organizations manage every aspect of network configuration. You can get live content, including up-to-the-minute security alerts and additional compliance reports. HP's Network Automation software manages multivendor network configurations to eliminate errors before they occur and deliver measurable cost savings, using process-powered automation. The result of this real-time visibility, automation, and control is a resilient, maintainable, and cost-effective network that meets network compliance for both company standards and government regulations.
On the server side, HP Server Automation (formerly Opsware SAS) can manage hundreds of servers distributed across several data centers and managed by different teams and systems. Server Automation provides life cycle management for enterprise servers and applications, from discovery to provisioning, patching to configuration management, script execution to compliance assurance. It also automates operations and processes across disparate IT teams and systems. Better yet, Server Automation is integrated with other HP data center automation software for a single view of your enterprise application environment.
If you care about Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, internal policy enforcement, and/or maintaining your sanity, HP Automation will help. Area #8: Process Best Practice
Product: ITIL v3
Why We Love It: In the world of IT service management, the IT Infrastructure Library is the de facto king of best practices. All the whiz-bang tools in the world will do little to help an organization increase operational efficiencies if it lacks a defined process methodology. While ITIL is a best practice, ISO/IEC 20000 (ISO20K) is the actual standard affecting an internal or external IT service provider's processes and quality management. ISO20K was jointly published by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) to help organizations benchmark how they deliver managed services, measure service levels, and assess performance. Part 1 (ISO/IEC 20000-1:2005) provides the IT service management specification, defining the standard for those responsible for initiating, implementing, or maintaining IT service management in their organizations.
If you're lost in a sea of tools yet never really finding the value, your answer likely lies in process improvement, not more tools. A quick and cost-effective ITIL analysis can size up your environment in a few weeks and will be worth its weight in gold. Area #9: Process Automation
Product: BMC RunBook Automation
Why We Love It: While there are other products in this market that have a few more features, BMC's RunBook Automation scales well in large enterprises and integrates with BMC's Remedy/Atrium. in fact, we wouldn't be surprised to see these platforms converge at some point in the future, so if you use Remedy, why take advantage of RunBook, too? This product will allow you to automate complex processes and take a lot of error-prone and manual steps out of routine tasks. While setup and configuration will take some expertise, once you're up and running the ITIL-based workflow can make your organization hum.
While its strength is within network-based task automation, the product also can suit server, provisioning, and just about any other process that you can document that involves IT systems. The modular workflow allows different groups and departments to use the application and not step on one another's toes. For audit and compliance tracking, reports can be generated that track whatever goes on in your environment. If you have your processes defined but find they're just taking too much time to execute, give BMC a call. Area #10: All-In-One Management Appliance
Product: ScienceLogic EM7
Why We Love It: If the first nine areas have your head spinning and a bunch of different packages aren't your thing, consider ScienceLogic EM7. This appliance-based system provides most core network and system management capabilities, including performance management, asset and configuration management, and help desk, all in a single box. The appliance can handle IP usage and allocation duties, and can accurately autodiscover network devices and TCP port availability. Better yet, these apps work together out of the box, eliminating the configuration and integration woes that typically plague other products.
ScienceLogic offers four images on the EM7, tailored to various size companies. In addition to the all-in-one image, for small enterprises, ScienceLogic provides collection, database, and visualization to distribute functions in larger environments. This architecture allows for centralized management of EM7 boxes, even in a global setting. While there are similar software-based systems that aim to bundle multiple functions in an economical package, EM7 is ready to roll today, and organizations can be up and running in a flash. While advanced configuration can take some enhanced configuration services, the product provides a tremendous amount of value in a small package and is easy to deploy and maintain. While not a panacea, it may be the right fit for midsize enterprise organizations that want comprehensive network and systems management capabilities, with fewer headaches.