Micromuse’s Impact Was Solid Gold

businessA small San Francisco-based developer has produced a tool it claims not only identifies network problems but also gauges how an outage affects a company’s business.

Micromuse Inc.’s new Impact software, which the company plans to introduce this week, can quickly assess how a network or server problem affects a business and its customers and can then speed resolution of the problem by establishing procedures that match business needs.

The software is designed to help administrators who oversee large public and private networks get their arms around the need to rapidly respond to network problems-an increasingly critical requirement in this world of 24-by-7 network access.

Much of that administration is currently done using a combination of tools, checking the status of different components in a variety of places and relying on frantic phone calls from end users or the help desk to understand who or what is affected by a downed server or network node.

“We’ve been building a Tower of Babel with a lot of different instructions for different events,” said an Impact beta tester, who requested anonymity. “A tool like this would let us take out these little apps we’ve written to provide this service.”

Existing management applications usually focus on one element of a network-such as a router or a Web server-forcing IT departments to buy and learn several troubleshooting tools.

More open-ended management platforms, such as Computer Associates International Inc.’s Unicenter TNG, hold out the promise of providing business-process views but have yet to deliver, said David Williams, an analyst at Gartner Group Inc., in Austin, Texas.

“Unless you understand from an overall business perspective what’s important and what’s not important, it’s very difficult to get great value from evolving business-process management tools,” Williams said.

Micromuse, a publicly held company with 1998 revenues of $28.3 million, hopes to change that with Impact, which is built on top of the company’s Netcool/Omnibus management software. When an outage occurs, Impact links real-time fault management data with multiple data sources across an enterprise site to show what services or applications are affected, who uses those applications or services, and what procedures to follow to quickly restore services to the highest-priority areas.

The software can link through data source adapters into data stores such as Oracle Corp. or Sybase Inc. databases or Lightweight Directory Access Protocol directories, map out relevant fields, then link them back and relate them to other data sources in the organization, said Tim Tokarsky, senior vice president of business development at Micromuse, in New York.

Policy templates allow managers to establish appropriate priorities to address first those prob lems that have the biggest business impact. The templates also allow administrators to formalize effective processes for problem resolution. For example, Impact can determine who is responsible for handling a specific problem at a given moment and how that person should resolve it.

One international service provider hopes to make the Impact data on service outages available to its customers via the Web, so they can see for themselves what’s happening with their service.

“The customer doesn’t want to see the slave RAM in the Cisco [Systems Inc.] router is locked. What’s important is, What impact does that have on the service? Does it affect one or many customers?” said an official at the service provider, who requested anonymity.

The service provider’s customers will be able to log on to a specific view of the network to see what is causing delays, the official added. “It could be their mainframe is slow or down, or it could be MCI [WorldCom Inc.]’s network is congested. Impact lets you do that,” he said.

Gartner’s Williams cautioned that a tool such as Impact can be effective only in a proactive management environment.

“You can’t dump a product like this into chaos,” he said. “The IT department has to work well with the business units-only they can put a priority on what’s important. The customer has to be at a process maturity level to appreciate that.”

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