Technology buyers burned by bad experiences with network monitoring software (NMS) are like sports car drivers stuck in second gear. Software vendors large and small should collaborate with customers to validate purchase decisions and share the risk to ensure deployments are ultimately successful.

 

Consider this scenario - hours spent working, scrimping and saving to purchase the car of your dreams. You remember, it was the one that was a bit more than you could afford at the time. The perfect vehicle enticed with its sleek chassis and high performance engine, and the dealer offered favorable financing terms to get you into its leather seats. You zoomed off the lot exhilarated at your level of success and newfound status. 

 

Shortly after the purchase honeymoon period came a hard dose of reality.Maybe it was that first $500 oil change or the fact that European sports cars require constant tuning to perform optimally. Thus, you experienced one of the more common lessons in life in the form of buyer’s remorse.Failure to add up all the hidden costs associated with keeping that luxury vehicle on the road always costs in the end.We have all made purchases in our personal and professional lives based on indulgence over practicality - and were flooded with regret as the inevitable hidden expenses threatened to ruin the experience.

 

Today, many companies are finding their investments in megasuite network monitoring systems similar to buying that dream car.Once the thrill is gone, they realize that a Ferrari is not something they can drive everyday and its high maintenance costs actually limit the car’s usage. To someone with lots of money and lots of cars - this is not limiting a problem.But if the top-of-the-line car is your only mode of transportation, it is a definite mismatch.

 

Disgruntled megasuite customers do not buy software that does not deliver on its value proposition.They do, however, buy software to achieve the results that cost more to integrate, implement and maintain - particularly in the form of full-time employees or consultants - than ever anticipated or budgeted for. Overwhelmed by hidden costs, it doesn’t take long for buyers to realize they can’t afford their high-priced “sports car.”They often reluctantly decide that it’s cheaper to dump the old system and invest in an NMS platform that is more reliable and no less capable. 

 

Manually Configured NMS Erodes ROI with Hidden Costs

 

With increasing complexity and rate of change impacting systems and networks, IT departments regard NMS solutions as an important investment designed to make life easier.They enter into any software licensing agreement with hopes of high returns. Enterprise buyers have usually kicked the tires and taken the solution for a brief test drive before handing over the check. What is often unforeseen until many months/miles down the road is the invariable drain on operations budgets by the constant maintenance required to keep most NMS software running at anything but a sluggish pace. Traditional monitoring suites from megavendors, with their technical requirements and substantial costs, can quickly become a nightmare as more time is spent with the solution in the IT shop than on the job.

 

Many megasuites degrade in performance at the customer site because of a critical imbalance between subpar automation and feature overkill.During implementation, extensive overruns can add up to unplanned headcount for support staff and additional budget allocation.ROI continues to erode as precious IT network personnel or high-priced consultants are given ongoing manual configuration and maintenance tasks. This manual approach amounts to software that frequently requires lifetime consultants just to keep it relevant.

Often the customer has also invested in costly modules or features that never get used.Today’s megasuites amount to assorted modules bundled by means of product acquisition that are integrated using shared branding alone.This leads customers to suffer additional license, support and consulting expenses each time additional functions are needed because additional modules need to be purchased, installed and maintained.

The imperative for automated configuration only rises with greater network complexity. Adapting the majority of NMS solutions to a continuously growing environment and myriad distributed devices makes many systems slow or causes them to break. Imagine having to access each element on your network – including servers, applications, wireless devices, voice internet protocol (VoIP) - in order to manually configure them, then having to go back and reconfigure each node each time something changes.As the poor customer’s NMS is negatively impacted with each and every network change, vicious configuration cycles contribute to high rates of underutilization or outright failure.

The Top 5 Issues with Typical NMS Applications

 

Similar to the European sports car that proves unwieldy to repair and wastes precious time and money, yesterday’s network monitoring solutions also result in buyer’s remorse.The top reasons include:

  • Massive TCO. Unforeseen costs associated with implementation and ongoing maintenance erode expected benefits and explode the cost justification models that helped justify the purchase in the first place.
  • Lack of scalability. Many megasuites require the installation of heavy proprietary monitoring agents that become impractical as node populations grow to tens of thousands, not to mention the army of resources dedicated to keeping them all operational.
  • Real-time views elusive. Manual configuration, by definition, confines customers to never having a real-time view of IT infrastructure.Because the software is always waiting on someone to manually reflect changes, it’s always outdated and never shows network personnel what’s really happening.
  • Marketectures don’t match promises. Legacy megasuites have built impressive arrays of technology - many acquired from smaller vendors. Many of these vendors have acquired so many third-party “engine” parts in recent years, however, that their bloat renders them utterly “undrivable” by all but the largest IT organizations.Few companies can effectively roll out more than 50 disparate products that have been mashed together by a common logo.
  • High failure rate. According to some industry estimates, up to 70 percent of all monitoring deployments fail due to the massive ongoing manual effort required just to keep them running.Many megavendor customers give up simply because they cannot sustain the continuing investment in a software project that is never completed.

Rip and Replace or Co-exist?

 

What do you do if you have a megavendor software solution and are experiencing all the hallmarks of an exorbitant luxury vehicle? The good news is that the industry’s recent focus on data center automation has positively impacted the NMS segment of the market.There are now enterprise-grade solutions from midmarket vendors that not only automatically configure over 80 percent of an enterprise rollout, but also automatically adapt and reflect ongoing changes in your infrastructure in real time, over time.These are no stripped down economy cars, but are sleek and stylish in their own right. A fundamentally automated system helps ensure a consolidated, real-time view of the entire extended network from a single, intuitive browser interface.

 

Ultimately, the decision to replace or simply supplement an existing monitoring system comes down to the degree of difficulty required to move from a reactive stance to a proactive approach to network monitoring.True, the average cost associated with maintaining a legacy megasuite is daunting, but what truly costs IT organizations is making the investment and still being in the position of missing outages because of an inability to predict future network performance.

 

For companies with a megasuite that has been all but abandoned, there are relatively low switching costs related to adopting a more automated approach.However, there can be reluctance among upper management to finance large-scale replacements.In enterprises where there is a partially functional megasuite implementation performing functions such as event management or incident management, an automated NMS platform can often co-exist to provide missing functionality while still sending critical events to the megasuite for resolution.

 

The potential ROI associated with implementing an automated NMS platform often amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year saved on consulting and support fees, in addition to vastly improved quality and breadth of network monitoring.Many of the more modern automated solutions feature favorably aggressive license fees and simple Web service-based integration with legacy systems.Quick deployment allows you and your IT organization to breathe new life into a stalled legacy implementation.

 

Partner with Your Vendors

 

Those with an underperforming NMS may be reluctant to invest further in a second solution – especially one from a smaller vendor.Knowing this, the new breed of NMS vendors offer structured evaluation methodologies during the discovery process that validate their solution’s ROI and map business value directing to unique customer requirements. Believing that preparation prevents disappointment, vendors partner with the customer to support a wise purchase decision.This formal process may include establishing criteria for the NMS solution’s performance, features or functions using a custom demo or a proof of concept implementation.

Traditionally, purchasing enterprise software has been more like buying a used car than a new one. The customer pays upfront and assumes 100 percent of the risk once the solution is “driven off the lot.”  Now forward-thinking NMS vendors offer valuable protection for software buyers where the vendor shares the risk with the customer. There are currently a number of new methods of acquiring network monitoring software are emerging that allow a more collaborative, and phased implementation schedule. One example is user acceptance testing, where the purchaser commits to buying the software but only pays for it as milestones are achieved and value is progressively realized. Another method is zero maintenance, which leaves the vendor responsible for ensuring that the software continues to perform over a fixed period of time at no additional charge.

The Real-Time Data Center Begins with Automated Monitoring

 

Automation is a hot trend across IT, and the coming of the real-time data center will allow organizations to save time, cut costs and move faster.The inherent limitations of manual or semiautomated network monitoring have placed these solutions on a collision course with the business imperatives of this revolution. Business increasingly demands real-time process execution to support strategic objectives, such as greater profitability and growth, and to interoperate seamlessly with growing numbers of customers, suppliers and partners. The ability to achieve those goals depends heavily on real-time visibility into network system performance.

 

While best described as an operational data center function, network and systems monitoring is a critical - not optional - investment, and one that need not prove overly expensive to implement.As network breadth expands at exponential rates, automated network monitoring is not just nice to have - it’s a prerequisite for large and midsized enterprises to ensure the health and performance of business-critical systems.  

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