Back to the Future – Monitoring 1999 Style

Posted on 07 February 2011

Tonight we’re gonna manage like it’s 1999.  I was introduced to a prospect today that made me feel like I was in a timewarp.  I was given of of those old school 400 question RFPs  which called for in-depth answers about Event Management – and I mean everything about it, correlation, rules, weighting, etc.  I had two reactions: isn’t this a “done” topic? Hasn’t Netcool been doing this so long that IBM bought them years ago to replace that dreadful T/EC? Couldn’t you have used the time and resources to put together this treatise to just download open source Zenoss and give it a try?

I know I shouldn’t be snarky about customers, but imagine you are a car dealer and someone comes in and wants to know every minute detail about the workings of a seatbelt. Wouldn’t you say “it’s a seatbelt, you click it and it holds you in”?  My next reaction was, “what does this have to do with Business Service Management (BSM)?” and the answer I got was “well, we want the events to be on a dashboard, that’s the BSM part”.  So now BSM = webpage front end?

We asked about managing from a business perspective, for example, if they are an insurance company perhaps managing the availability of claims processing, as opposed to servers and network segments and then spoke of setting service levels based on the business process as opposed to a server being up of the time?  Actually, my point is that many of us that live and breathe BSM take if for granted that IT shops are up-to-date simply because we strive to stay ahead of the curve with BSM.

Here’s a quick definition, courtesy of Wikipedia.  “Business service management (BSM) is a methodology for monitoring and measuring information technology (IT) services from a business perspective; in other words, BSM is a set of management software tools, processes and methods to manage a data center via a business-centered approach.” Oh, and here’s a link to download open source Zenoss for monitoring, it might save you from having to write a 400 question monitoring rfp:

I find more and more customers taking advantage of the open source technologies and consolidating at the monitoring level to remove costs in order to invest in the business service view.  The dynamic and distributed nature of the environment makes it nearly impossible to understand the monitoring events in terms of business impact without technology to map and present it as a single-pane-of-glass view.

I hope you enjoy my little humor for the week.


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  • The 2 earliest players in the market were Net/Command (wich became Boole & Babbage’s Command Post and then morphed into Patrol Enterprise Manager when Boole was acquired by BMC) and MAX/Enterprise.

    I found an interesting document written by Micromuse in 1995 that discusses Omnibus, MAX/E and Command/Post .

    The document has an interesting explanation of the products on the market and especially MAX/Enterprise, though it is hugely wrong in its competitive analysis with numerous errors and untruths about the actual functionality and ease of use.

    The reason they understood MAX/Enterprise is that at the time Netcool was a tiny little UK-based company who had a great probe-based technology for monitoring telco equipment and network equipment, At the time that is all it did. They came to MAXM Systems and wanted to parter with us to provide the application and systems monitoring and to provide the Enterprise and business views. What they really wanted of course was for MAXM to sell Netcool as an add-on for network monitoring.

    I worked for MAXM from 1994 until 1997 when they were acquired by their only competitor Boole & Babbage, and also met with and demonstrated MAX/Enterprise to Phil Tee and others from Netcool which is (I guess) where they got the information in the document linked above. I then worked at Boole and then BMC and was able to see the transition of Enterprise Systems Management to what is now known as Business Service Management, though in reality the principles and routes to achieving results are pretty much exactly the same now as they were then.

    Even the dashboards look similar (Yes we had web-based dashboards in the late 90’s)

    One other thing – the document sites that Netcool was a configurable application and that MAX/Enterprise was a development toolkit. What an utterly fatuous statement that is – MAX/Enterprise allowed connection to any system or application, message filtering, correlation, and automation all from one simple GUI. It had easy to use filtering tools, built-in testing tools and at the desktop (OS/2 until Windows was up to the job) it deployed drag and drop technology and easy integration with other desktop apps.

    Looking back and then taking a look at the current top BSM products such as Compuware Vantage Service Manager (previously Centauri BSM), Interlink and Managed Objects, and the new players such as FireScope, it seems that not much has really changed over the last 15 years. These newer tools have not really added much additional functionality, the probable reason being that MAX/Enterprise and Command/Post had it all in there anyway!