Visionael brings net design tools to feds

Network design and documentation vendor Visionael Corp. has made inroads in the government market since opening its federal office in February, highlighted by two significant customers at the Defense Department.

The company's Visionael Net suite consists of tools that help large organizations document, design and plan complex and distributed enterprise and telecommunications networks.

Unlike other companies, Visionael takes an "enterprise attitude" toward network management, said Marc Jones, president and chief executive officer of Visionael. "A lot of companies are focused on servicing their own equipment or [providing] document and design for a single user," but users want an integrated approach with a common interface, which Visionael provides, he said.

Late last month Visionael was chosen as the network design and planning product for the Pentagon's massive renovation program, and the Defense Information Systems Agency recently standardized on the tool suite, according to the company. As part of its decade-long Pentagon renovation program, DOD is creating a new network infrastructure that will run throughout the building, replacing the present hodgepodge of networks.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company, which changed its name last year from Advanced Graphics, views the government, with its large, distributed and complex networks, as an ideal customer. "The government market is the perfect market for us because we are geared toward complex organizations," Jones said.

Users can use Visio Technical or Visio Professional 5.0 as the sketching package that integrates with Visionael Net, but those drawings are stored as objects, which makes it easier to make changes. Also, users can try out a proposed network configuration change before actually carrying it out. A database keeps track of how the network looked before and after the changes were made. Physical and logical views are automatically generated from information stored in a central database. Visionael Net integrates with various network management products, including Hewlett-Packard Co.'s OpenView and Cabletron Systems Inc.'s Spectrum, and it supports Oracle Corp. and Sybase Inc. relational databases.

Beyond Mapping

What makes Visionael Net stand out is its ability to support logical and physical changes on the network and to go beyond just mapping the network topology, said Elisabeth Rainge, senior analyst at International Data Corp.

"Visionael talks about process management for network design," she said. "It can track the process of the design of the network, as opposed to it being a drawing exercise."

However, the company may have difficulty attracting large telecommunications carriers to the product, said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects, Washington, D.C. Many of these service-oriented companies develop customized tools in-house, he said.

"In the private and federal sectors and more into the telecom sector, you find [capacity planning and design] tools can only go so far," Dzubeck said. "When you get to a certain size, a standardized approach is not relevant."

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