Choosing the right performance tool

Traditionally, vendors designed network and systems management tools to examine specific components: local- and wide-area networks, databases, desktop operating systems and Web servers. That led to situations where each system was found to be working well, yet users complained that it took too long to perform simple tasks, such as downloading a Web page.

"Most of the management tools were built to measure specific items, such as packet loss or server throughput, rather than end-to-end performance," said Rick Sturm, president of Enterprise Management Associates Inc., a market research firm.

In response, suppliers recently began delivering tools that monitor performance from a user's perspective. The most mature products started by monitoring mainframe performance. They include Patrol from BMC Software Inc., CandleNet ETEWatch and IntelliWatch from Candle Corp., Unicenter from Computer Associates International Inc., EcoSystems from Compuware Corp. and the Tivoli line from IBM Corp. Others emerged from the network equipment market: CiscoWorks 2000 from Cisco Systems Inc., OpenView from Hewlett-Packard Co., Optivity from Nortel Networks Ltd. and OpenLane from Paradyne Networks Inc. Another set of suppliers focused solely on performance issues: eHealth from Concord Communications Inc., Luminate.Net from Luminate, nGenius from NetScout Systems Inc., Starting Blocks from Tavve and the Visual Uptime line from Visual Networks Technologies Inc. These companies initially concentrated on enterprise performance issues and then migrated to include tools for third-party service providers.

The Internet boom led to a raft of new companies building tools so carriers could guarantee network availability. Products include BrixWorx from Brix Networks Inc., WiseWan from Net.Reality Inc., Oblicore from Oblicore Inc., Pulsar xSP from Response Networks Inc. and the Inteligo suite from ViewGate Networks Inc.

"Since the various performance monitoring tools offer a wide range of features, com.panies have to make sure a tool's strong points mesh with its performance requirements," said Cal Braunstein, president of the Robert Francis Group, a market research firm.

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