Users Hope Merger Blends Apps, Network Monitoring

FRAMINGHAM (01/28/2000) - Information technology managers hope the total is greater than the sum of the parts in the acquisition of FirstSense Software Inc. by Concord Communications Inc.

Even before the acquisition, the vendors had partnered to ensure Concord's network monitoring tool and FirstSense's application-performance monitor worked together.

But customers are still waiting to see if Concord can create a single, integrated product and compete against much larger vendors, such as Computer Associates International Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and BMC Software Inc.

At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee in Chattanooga, Hugh Hale, senior manager of information systems, recently bought 500 FirstSense licenses but has cancelled an option on another 2,500.

"I don't know where it leaves us," Hale said of the merger.

Integration of the FirstSense Enterprise application performance and service-level management software into Concord's NetworkHealth suite, which has been rebranded eHealth, will support Concord's claims that it will provide end-to-end performance monitoring, said Patrick Dryden, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Dallas.

"If they put them together properly, it could be dynamite," agreed Tony Fortwengler, director of technical services at Las Vegas-based Southwest Gas Corp., a natural gas producer that uses both products stand-alone. "Plus, I wouldn't have to have two people to maintain two products; one of them could do something else."

"But, as always [with such integrations]" he added, "the key is: Can they pull it off?"

Probably, said Raymond Paquet, an analyst at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn. "Concord was one of the first to put together server, application, end-to-end and network performance monitoring capabilities in one package," he said.

Much depends on how well Concord not only integrates FirstSense but also how it correlates the data with that from the rest of the eHealth suite, Paquet said.

And to succeed, Concord "will have to compete with the Computer Associates, BMCs and [Hewlett-Packards] of the world. And they're only one-tenth the size," he said. FirstSense can only strengthen Concord, Hale said.

FirstSense can take a business view, treating as a single transaction an activity such as filling out a form, which can entail accessing databases a dozen times. A network monitor, by contrast, sees each database access as an individual transaction.

Reports that take a business view are what his business managers want to see, said Hale, and are why he signed off on the FirstSense purchase.

"We wanted to see what the end user sees," Fortwengler said. "If someone calls in and says the fleet management program was slow this morning, this is a problem.

"But you ask the user, ‘What else was going on?' and they say, ‘Nothing.' FirstSense takes a snapshot of what was going on, so you can find out the user has 64M bytes of RAM and had four windows open," he said.

Concord will, for an unspecified time, support FirstSense Enterprise in its current version, said Brian Burba, Concord's director of product marketing. But eventually the stand-alone version will be subsumed into the new eHealth suite's ServiceHealth component, he said. Service Health, released Jan. 25, focuses on tools to help organizations meet service-level agreements.

In a letter to FirstSense customers, Concord President and CEO Jack Blaeser promised more details on the merger in a Web seminar Feb. 3.

Marlboro, Mass.-based Concord will buy FirstSense in Burlington, Mass., for $104.4 million.

Concord's annual revenue jumped from $39.5 million in 1998 to $64.8 million last year, said David Raezer, a financial analyst at Banc of America Securities in New York.

The acquisition brings to eHealth end-to-end monitoring that extends from the server through the network to the user experience at the desktop, he said. That could bring Concord's revenue this year to $106 million, he said.

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