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10 IT management technology start-ups to watch

IT operations teams short on staff and budget dollars this past year have turned to myriad management technologies to deliver optimized services in increasingly virtualized and cloud computing-oriented environments. Quite a few of those technologies come from relative newcomers to the industry, and we've rounded up profiles on 10 of them worth watching into the new year.

Company: RiverMuse

Founded: May 2008

Headquarters: Belmont, Calif.

Focus: RiverMuse Core is open source management software designed to perform event and fault management across next-generation networks. Company officials say the software uses “an agile architecture to support modern service delivery infrastructures” that include virtualization, Web-based and service-oriented architecture technologies at a lower total cost of ownership. Industry watchers say that means the technology can perform event management and correlation in the cloud.

“We have seen a resurgence in event and fault management and we link it back to the cloud. Once IT managers don't have direct control of the infrastructure, they will be much more dependent on tools to diagnose what is going on and to assign performance and problem ownership,” EMA's Mann says.

Why it's worth watching: Two primary reasons to pay attention to RiverMuse are its open source business model and its management team's pedigree in the network management market, industry watchers say.

“This company seems to be laser-focused on solving the problems that Micromuse and RiverSoft did, but using an open source model, which gives customers some promise on opening the technology up and making it more flexible,” EMA's Frey says. “This type of layering of business and service logic over network and system events is definitely needed.”

How company got its start: The company was established to fill a hole in the network management and event correlation market with open source software. It was founded by entrepreneur Phil Tee, Predrag (Fred) Mutavzdic and Mike Silvey, who were the team behind the inventions of Micromuse and RiverSoft, and Phil Blades, one of the first Netcool (Micromuse's flagship technology) customers.

How company got its name: With founding members having history with two management industry darlings of the past decade – Micromuse (acquired by IBM) and RiverSoft (acquired by Micromuse pre-IBM acquisition) – RiverMuse reflected the pedigree of both previous management software vendors.

CEO: JL Valente, also company president, previously held positions at management software makers CA, Viasoft (now ASG), InfoVista and most recently Cittio.

Funding: $4 million in Series A funding from Sierra Ventures and Trinity Ventures, January 2009.

Who's using the product: The open source RiverMuse Core (launched in July 2009) has been downloaded more than 800 times. RiverMuse officials report working directly with early adopters such as Vital Network Services, Eirteic, MKAdvantage, Airversent, Sleek Networks and Advertising.Com.

Company: Vineyard Networks

Founded: May 2009

Headquarters: Kelowna, British Columbia

Focus: NetCore on Demand is offered via subscription and delivered as a SaaS application, in part. The offering includes an application-aware probe called NetView, which is installed on the customer site. Vineyard configures the NetView hardware probe to monitor the environment and then deliver to customers an interface called NetCore via a secure SSL connection. NetCore on Demand monitors WAN and LAN connections, Layer 7 service information, application traffic and Cisco's NetFlow data.

Why it's worth watching: Vineyard Networks is taking advantage of the trend for management vendors to package their products as SaaS as well as easy-to-deploy hardware devices. This hybrid approach will help IT managers use more sophisticated technology to monitor their environment, without having to be responsible for the care and feeding of complex management applications, industry watchers say.

“SaaS with management software has to take this hybrid approach in which the main functionality and user interface is on the vendor side, with several hooks into the environment on the customer premise,” says Glenn O'Donnell, a senior analyst with Forrester Research. “IT management customers have been telling vendors ‘simplify this, make the purchase process and economic impact simpler' and vendors have responded with virtual appliances or SaaS offerings, which are ways for the vendors to do all the integration and hide the complexity of the technology so customers don't have to worry about it.”

Vineyard, in particular, offers an interesting value proposition, EMA's Frey says.

“Network-based performance management using Cisco NetFlow data but also delivered in a remote hosted model can work really well,” he adds. “There has never been a need for less network management, but now vendors like Vineyard are trying to help companies use these advanced technologies in a more efficient way and lower the learning curve so they can see the value sooner.”

How company got its start: The founders wanted to create what many before them have also attempted: easy, inexpensive network monitoring and management technology for IT managers that couldn't devote money, time and energy to complex software that promised to help them better run their networks.

How company got its name: Named after an aspect of its local landscape in Canada: wine vineyards.

CEO: Jason Richards previously worked in operations and sales at Packeteer and prior to that, he held a senior position in engineering with Workfire Technologies, a British Columbia start-up that focused on Internet acceleration technologies.

Funding: Through a combination of angel investors, government research assistance grants, and the Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust (SIDIT). Currently Vineyard has raised more than $1.6 million in operating capital.

Who's using the product: Customers include Pushor Mitchell, ECC and ASCI.

Company: Windmill Networks

Founded: April 2007

Headquarters: Huntsville, Ala.

Focus: Windmill Integration Manager (WIM) installs as a VMware virtual appliance that includes a data correlation engine, which translates and reconciles information collected from multiple third-party management applications. WIM would highlight the configuration inconsistencies between tools and potentially point to configuration or other errors that could prevent future performance problems. The software also enables network managers to make a change in one application and have it propagated across many tools, the company says.

Why it's worth watching: Industry watchers say Windmill is filling a gap in many network managers' tool boxes, which would help to reduce labor and time spent configuring devices and applications. Much research has shown that many performance degradations and actual failures occur due to configuration errors.

“This tool provides a common, single interface to do configuration work and moves, adds and changes,” says Enterprise Management Associates Research Director Jim Frey. “The technology would be ideal for IT managers not wanting to invest in a full-blown enterprise-scale, network change and configuration management product, which typically encompasses a lot more capabilities around compliance, for instance. Not every department needs the full-blown product.”

How company got its start: Former Cisco network management employee saw the need to better manage device configurations across large networks, solving a common and critical IT manager frustration.

How company got its name: As for the company name being based on a Don Quixote reference to “tilting at windmills,” or in layman's terms fighting an unwinnable battle, founders say it's a light-hearted take on a serious problem across the IT industry: Making applications from multiple vendors work smoothly together.

CEO: Fred Gray, also co-founder and CTO, previously spent 10 years at Cisco, specializing in operational and network management issues for enterprise and service provider customers.

Funding: Seed round of $500,000 from private investors.

Who's using the product: The company could not disclose customer names.

Company: layerX Technologies

Founded: June 2006

Headquarters: Coppell, Texas

Focus: layerX offers two notable technologies. Its Arbitrator product provides integrated real-time event correlation capabilities and includes modules for security, network and systems management, log management, VoIP and convergence. The technology is said to automate key functions including problem remediation and complex network tasks such as dependent system and application recovery. Another aspect of the software includes a rapid indexing technology that allows for fast searches, but is also part of the company's free IT search offering, dubbed punq.

‘The ability to search through and analyze logs is the first step in network troubleshooting,” the layerX Web site states, “and as such should be a widely available option for IT personnel.”

Why it's worth watching: With punq, layerX provides an alternative to the IT management search tools offered from Splunk, both in free and commercial versions. Punq, or portable utility for network query, is an unlimited use, free application that lets IT managers search live and historical event logs, save search criteria, collect and securely store Syslog and SNMP events, and archive and restore historical capture data for long-term log analysis. Such features are critical to IT managers looking to reduce troubleshooting time by searching infinite data at high speeds, analysts say.

“Punq offers the ability to gather huge amounts of data and try to make sense of it based on a time stamp. It is not an overly sophisticated technology, but if you know what information you need, this type of tool picks up loads of data and helps you make sense of it faster,” says David Williams, research vice president at Gartner. “Search as a general mechanism to identify issues has become popular in a short period of time and I expect this type of technology will become an underlying element that many will apply in many management tools.”

How company got its start: The founders met in early 2006 as part of a consulting engagement looking for a way to productize their technology, and the relationship evolved into the creation of layerX and its subsequent acquisition by Shared Technologies.

How company got its name: Aside from being the personal e-mail for company co-founder and CTO Keith Hayes, layerX represents the product's ability to bring a new layer of intelligence to the network.

CEO: Tony Parella, president and CEO of Shared Technologies, which acquired the layerX assets in April 2007. Glenn Means serves as president of layerX and previously worked at NEC Unified Solutions.

Funding: Privately funded as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Shared Technologies

Who's using the product: Coventry and Carousel are among the company's customers

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