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Three Key Capabilities Network Managers Demand From Their Network Configuration Management Solutions

The data tells all: Network managers value capability breadth over feature performance in their NCM tools.

What do network managers and engineers value most in their network configuration management (NCM) toolset?

At SoftwareReviews, we asked network managers about how they manage their enterprise networks. As part of that review, we compared the highest-ranking vendors in the network configuration management product capability across the vendor capability satisfaction survey, and the data was conclusive. When we look at the solutions that scored the highest in the NCM area of our network monitoring software category, those solution providers had three things in common:

  • They were part of a tightly integrated ecosystem of other products, such as network health and inventory data.
  • They also scored highly in providing a breadth of features to their end users.
  • They had a clear product strategy and provided continuous feature updates.

Source: SoftwareReviews, Network Monitoring Solutions Category Report, October 2020

  1. Ease of Data Integration (4 of 5 top NCM vendors ranked highly in this capability)

Let’s face it, many network issues are from changes in device configuration and this data is required for fast troubleshooting. From the end user’s point of view, this means that if they do not have the feature natively within their NCM toolset, they would like the ability to bring the data over to another tool for that purpose. When we asked our end users about the degree to which their network monitoring systems (NMS) vendors made this possible, four out of the top five NCM vendors boasted a 78% satisfaction score: Progress WhatsUp Gold, ManageEngine OpManager, Micro Focus NOM, and Cisco Prime Infrastructure.

That SolarWinds NPM was not included in its peer group here was not a surprise. In advisory calls with our members, we hear consistently that the SolarWinds ecosystem of monitoring products is a bit of a walled garden. Well appreciated by those who make use of its plethora of products, but not as easily open to getting data from those applications for use in third-party toolsets.

  1. Breadth of Features (3 of the 5 top NMC vendors ranked highly in this capability)

When we look at this capability from a vendor, we are asking end users to evaluate the vendor’s ability to enable a diverse set of tasks as opposed to providing a point solution. Specifically, in the enterprise network monitoring space this would refer to a solution that is also capable of tangential aspects of NCM, those being network health monitoring, compliance management, and inventory management.

In this area, three of our top five NCM solutions – Progress WhatsUp Gold, SolarWinds NPM, and Micro Focus NOM – were also ranked among the top five vendors for their ability to provide feature breadth.

Network configuration management is a nuanced process to manage. End users need the right data in the right place at the right time to use NCM as an effective tool for reducing incident response times, improving change management, and maintaining an accurate inventory of network assets. Therefore, a complete single-vendor solution that provides all these capabilities, rather than a subset (however effective they are), are more appreciated.

  1. Product Strategy and Rate of Improvement (4 of 5 top NCM vendors ranked highly in this capability)

The final area where we see the top NCM vendors being ranked is in their ability to provide a product strategy and roadmap to their end users and show a high rate of product improvement. While Pico’s Corvil Analytics product took top spot here with an 81% satisfaction score, our top five NCM vendors rounded out positions two through six.

This pattern does not correlate as obviously because it does not speak directly to the practice of network configuration management. What the respondents are saying though is that because NCM sits at the center of so many inter-related functions, the vendor with whom they are engaging for this capability needs to show strong commitment to this space. Changing NCM vendors is hard, and organizations need reassurance that their solution provider is committed to the solution and able to address the broad range of features required to be successful in this space.

Wrap-Up

Network configuration management is a critical function for enterprise network management that is used to reduce downtime related to device management, reduce potential disruption during planned maintenance, and keep accurate records and metadata of assets for compliance purposes. It is not a function that any organization looks to solve with a point solution. Micro Focus NOM stands tall among other NCM solution providers because of its ability to centralize all the necessary data and provide the appropriate breadth of features and it’s backed by a vendor with a transparent roadmap for continuous improvement and a clear commitment to the space.

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