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Mr. Management: Jack of All Trades ...

"But limitations are bad," you say. Well, it ain't necessarily so. You may love your Swiss Army knife or your Leatherman, but do you really want to use the same tool to gut a trout and open a bottle of Cabernet? And do you ever actually use those scrawny little scissors that came with that Swiss Army knife? How about the toothpick? (Please don't answer that.)

Wouldn't you rather use a J. Marttiini filet knife to gut the trout and a Brookstone corkscrew to open the Stags Leap?

The "we do it all" approach isn't necessarily best, and smart management vendors know that. They focus on individual tools for individual tasks, and they get the job done right. What's more, they don't cost you an arm and a leg--you can get EtherPeek for $2,500 or SolarWinds Engineer's Edition for $995. Granted, that's no small potatoes, but it's not going to empty your wallet, either--you won't have to spend countless hours presenting the finance department with all sorts of ROI and TCO equations.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying centralized control, with a common schema and virtualized policy, isn't the holy grail of network management--it is--and hindsight makes it easy to criticize the framework vendors. But management on the scale proposed by BMC Software, Computer Associates, Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Tivoli demands time and money--lots of it.