This content is part of the Essential Guide: How to improve network visibility and regain control

Market for network performance tools enters vendor consolidation phase

Recent acquisitions of network performance monitoring and diagnostic tool vendors signal market consolidation.

Recent vendor acquisitions in a segment of the network performance tool market signal the start of long-overdue consolidation. The market for network performance monitoring and diagnostics, or NPMD, has navigated waves of consolidation, followed by fragmentation. This fragmentation is often driven by new technology that lacks proper management tools. As a result, the number of tools explodes, as startups try to solve specific problems, such as application cloud monitoring. Businesses then buy numerous specialty tools, which causes tool sprawl.

As technology cycles mature, the larger or more successful vendors have the capital to acquire the smaller vendors. This consolidation enables tech buyers to purchase what they need from a one-stop shop. Also, in theory, the vendor should be able to integrate the different types of data, like WAN data, as well as different forms of data -- such as packet data, flow data, Simple Network Management Protocol and so on -- into its platform and create some differentiation.

The last major consolidation of network management tools occurred about a decade ago, when IBM and Computer Associates bought a range of specialty vendors to add to their core capabilities. Larger vendors acquired specialty tool vendors, such as Micromuse, SMARTS, Concord Communications and NetQoS. Prior to that, each of the acquired vendors targeted a specific problem. SMARTS, for example, was a root-cause analysis tool, while Micromuse focused on network management.

The coming NPMD consolidation

Today, the network performance tool market -- specifically, the NPMD market -- sits on the precipice of another round of consolidation. This time, the modernized infrastructure is driving the tool explosion. Technologies such as virtualization, cloud infrastructure, containers, cloud applications, software-defined networking and SD-WAN have created blind spots that require new tools.

The connectivity of everything and modernized infrastructure have dismantled the silos of data center, campus, WAN and cloud. Companies can now have a single, logical network. And what happens in one part of the network can affect everything else.

As a result, network operations teams need end-to-end visibility across the entire network instead of looking in one specific domain. But, because no single tool could offer this end-to-end visibility, businesses have invested in numerous tools. Today, network engineers often face the problem of having at least five tools, with some having more than 10.

Buying more specialized tools might seem like a good idea, as they solve specific problems. But deciphering the aggregate data would present challenges.

Any analysis requires manually rolling the data up and normalizing it. Some tools are real-time, while others sample network activity. And others are still used only when there's a problem. Even the best network engineer cannot correlate the data manually, and this makes problem identification a near-impossible task.

LiveAction, Savvius bring visibility

One vendor that has launched the consolidation process in the network performance tool market is LiveAction, which recently bought Savvius and LivingObjects. LiveAction specializes in network visualization, analytics and high-velocity data management using primarily flow and Simple Network Management Protocol information.

The combination of LiveAction and Savvius enables customers to have end-to-end network visibility with the flow data. Customers can then drill down, when required, and turn on packet capture to investigate problems, all within the same tool.

LivingObjects expanded LiveAction's capabilities in a different way. LivingObjects was an NPMD company focused on service providers, which enabled LiveAction to create a true business unit. Normally, most enterprises wouldn't care about this acquisition, but it enables service providers to better support their enterprise customers.

In particular, LivingObjects' main product, LiveSP, offers service providers a cloud-first, multi-tenant service with customized reports. It also supports application visibility and SD-WAN monitoring for Cisco Intelligent WAN, Viptela, Nuage Networks and others.

Network performance tool makers must be nimble

In general, businesses need to be quick and agile to keep up with rapid market shifts. In an environment where everything is connected, the network has become a critical business asset.

Network operations need to proactively identify conditions before they become an incident. But when incidents do occur, networking teams need to be able to resolve them faster and with more confidence. Businesses can't afford for their network teams to spend hours cobbling together data and trying to solve problems with fragmented tools.

LiveAction is trying to help its customers through the consolidation of tools. It's a trend that's just starting, so expect to see more mergers and acquisitions in the coming months.

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