SolarWinds is doing something right

SolarWinds spices up network management marketplace

Here are a few examples of accounts that I stumbled upon quite on my own:

-- One telecommunications provider with $10 billion in revenue with a strong focus on quality -- or what it calls "continual improvement" -- is using SolarWinds in conjunction with network management solutions from HP, NetQoS, Fluke and others. Apparently in this company, each business unit can select its own brand. And SolarWinds is used because of its usability and adaptability and the belief that, "smaller companies tailor their offerings to individual requirements better than many larger vendors." This might seem to contradict conventional wisdom, given the breadth of functionality and a design optimized to support customization characteristic of most top-tier management solutions. But I suspect what's at play here is that ease of administration is winning out over infinite choice and infinite options.

-- A healthcare services organization with $20 million in revenue is using SolarWinds in conjunction with CiscoWorks, NetScout's Sniffer, and Ethereal/Wireshark, among others.

-- A North American manufacturer with a billion in revenue, and so mid-tier, is using SolarWinds in conjunction with BMC's Magic for helpdesk, Microsoft's MOM, Compuware's Vantage for application management and CiscoWorks. Without any provocation on my part, they actually told me that the network guys consider SolarWinds to be "their most strategic investment."

Now, don't get me wrong. I think that if you're a large company, or even a mid-tier organization, and you don't invest aggressively in the best management software for your organization, you're somewhat delusional -- given the cost ratios of software versus operational overhead, and the operational efficiencies that good management software can bring you.

If you let cost dominate your choice you are probably "cutting off your nose to spite your face" to pick a rather ugly, hackneyed, but appropriate cliché. But what SolarWinds is showing -- and in the first two examples cost expressly wasn't a factor -- is that focused, deployable solutions that have sufficient portfolio breadth to support management process requirements -- do have some real advantages even in large companies.

While I'm a champion of trends such as CMDB initiatives that probably do reflect a love of new and often complex technologies, I never cease to be amazed at the industry-wide complacence regarding administrative overhead and time to deployment. (Last week I spoke to one happy platform user whose service desk software required 16 fully dedicated administrators. This platform offered process automation capabilities far outside the current reach of SolarWinds, but nonetheless the poor gentleman had to repeat the number "sixteen" to me three times.)

We're living in changing times even more than usual when it comes to IT -- with trends like ITIL process adoptions, virtualization, and process automation. There are cultural as well as technological changes underfoot, most of which are for the better. But if we as an industry are going to face the challenges these changes pose, it would seem to me that the age-old complacence, nearly canonized in the late '90s, that good management platforms must always need small armies to deploy and administer them - should be something we learn to challenge. So it's good to see a still relatively small company like SolarWinds making some big waves in some surprisingly large accounts.

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