Frameworks vs. point products

Everyone loves an underdog story, but this isn't one.

BMC, CA, HP and IBM came to power in the management software market in the 1990s with tools to manage network devices and software designed to keep mainframe systems humming along. Being among the few choices at the time, the vendors dominated the market and customers endured product implementations that could run up to 18 months and spent well into the millions of dollars to get management software in place. But in too many cases, the technology didn't deliver.

As stories of network management framework buyer's remorse echoed throughout the industry, newcomers such as Concord, Micromuse, Riversoft and SMARTS emerged to offer customers easy-to-install, low-cost alternatives to the monolithic, cumbersome products on which the big vendors built their software businesses.

And while the innovative players put up a fight and scrapped their way into some customer accounts, the smaller companies no longer exist on their own and their technologies live on inside the management Goliaths, who remain the market leaders.

Over the past several years, CA acquired Concord (which had acquired onetime framework contender and Cabletron spin-off Aprisma Management Technologies); IBM acquired Micromuse; HP acquired a license for RiverSoft technology (and Micromuse acquired RiverSoft before becoming part of Big Blue); and EMC picked up SMARTS. According to industry watchers, the start-ups never had a chance for long-term success.

"Many IT organizations have become adverse to risk. Unless there is a compelling reason to acquire technology from a small and unproven vendor, IT organizations will favor viability over technology," Jean-Pierre Garbani, a research vice president at Forrester Research, said in 2003. But the battles fought by the start-ups weren't all for naught. The foundation of their business models -- less expensive, lower cost software that actually works -- resonated too much with customers who carry on the battle cry with framework vendors to simplify their software and offer it at reasonable prices.

Framework has become a dirty word in the network management industry, and vendors now prefer to call their massive product portfolios integrated suites or management platforms. And in most cases, the integrated applications now offered by one vendor are in fact best-of-breed products collected over the years from the industry's more innovative start-ups.

"What IT rightly seems to be moving toward is a central point of automation and integration for multiple products from multiple vendors. That's a lot different than the frameworks' total philosophical and monetary commitment to a single brand that offered very little in the way of real integration and almost no satisfactory levels of automation," Dennis Drogseth, research vice president at Enterprise Management Associates, said in 2006.

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More about AprismaBig BlueBMC Software AustraliaCA TechnologiesEMC CorporationEnterprise Management AssociatesForrester ResearchHewlett-Packard AustraliaHPIBM AustraliaMicromuseRiversoft

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