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Customized Systems Management Suites



Systems management is never a one-size-fits-all proposition, and that goes double for SMALL ENTERPRISES. Sure, they have fewer nodes to manage, but the flip side is fewer people and dollars to go around. Enterprise IT pros know automation is key to staying focused on business priorities rather than getting bogged down in day-to-day tasks like patch management. But few small and midsize businesses can justify the HIGH cost of entry for beefy automation apps, even though their need is just as great.

For this article, we posed a theoretical scenario: A small data center is growing from 20 nonblade servers to 50, with the 100 mark on the horizon, while looking to incorporate Linux and possibly Solaris. IT management wants to prepare by applying as much automation as it can, to accomplish provisioning, patching, application deployment and performance monitoring without hiring an additional administrator. The question is, Should this company think long term and stretch its budget to purchase a comprehensive management suite, or should it assemble point products to address specific problems?

Automation Station

Eighteen months ago, we tested suites that provide role-based administration, patch management, vulnerability assessments and more; our Editor's Choice started at $92 per node, and a 10,000-node volume discount only brought us down to $63. Installation, implementation and ongoing administration not included, of course. Not surprisingly, few small shops go that route today.

Big vendors are trying hard to change this dynamic, looking to sew up the lucrative small-to-midsize business market: Total IT spending for 2006 is projected at $786 billion, according to Forrester, with about half that coming from the small business side. Growth in this sector is forecast at 8 percent, compared with 6 percent for the enterprise market. Systems management vendors are taking notice, hoping to give growing small businesses a snug strategic management fit, seducing them with visions of self-healing systems that basically administer themselves.

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