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Volume 12, Number 9 -- April 10, 2012

ManageEngine Pushes the Systems Management Envelope

Published: April 10, 2012

by Alex Woodie

If you're in the market for systems management software, but can't swallow the big license fees and long implementation times of the Big 4, you might want to check out ManageEngine, which purports to offer 80 percent of the functionality of its larger competitors at about 20 percent of the cost. But one functional area where ManageEngine may have an advantage is in the adoption of new technology, such as social media and mobile computing, which ManageEngine is embedding into its products.

IBM i shops may know ManageEngine for Applications Manager, which offers the capability to monitor a range of server metrics--such as job activity, DASD and LPAR utilization, QSYSOPR contents, user profile data, and printer monitoring--that are unique to the IBM i platform. The software isn't a dedicated IBM i tool, of course, and it also monitors other major server OSes, hypervisors, databases, and enterprise applications.

But the company, which has dual headquarters in India and Silicon Valley, has many other tools. When it started developing Java-based software in the early 2000s, ManageEngine's primary product was a network management solution, called OpManager. Since then, the Zoho subsidiary's top seller has been its help desk and asset management software, called ServiceDesk. Other major product groupings used by its 55,000 customers include desktop management, security and compliance, website monitoring, and password control.

ManageEngine president Raj Sabhlok thinks the company's tools stack up well against the bulk of the features offered by major systems management vendors. "We sometimes put the big four--IBM, Hewlett-Packard, BMC, and CA--on a pedestal and use that as a reference point to where our products fit in," he tells IT Jungle in a recent interview. "In some sense, we cover a lot of the same areas, all the way from network to apps to service desk to help desk."

There are major differences. For starters, the big four offer deeper insight into large transactional systems and IBM mainframes, and have proven scalability beyond what ManageEngine's SMB customer set typically need. ManageEngine strives for a lean and mean workforce, which is evident in that 90 percent of the company's personnel are in development or customer support, Sabhlok says. "We try to be disruptive in the market, in building products that don't require hand-holding or a forklift to bring it into the organization," he says.

Cross-product integration is an area where Sabhlok sees a competitive advantage. Sabhlok, who previously worked at BMC, says the integrated management frameworks launched by the big four didn't work as advertised. "By and large, they weren't successful, because the plethora of products they had didn't integrate well together. The only ones that were able to achieve highly integrated management solutions were the ones that were able to pay for a lot of service," he says.

By comparison, ManageEngine has the advantage of being a relative newcomer to the field, which allowed it to use newer technology and avoid the burden of having a legacy to uphold. "We don't acquire products or companies. We develop our software using a common code base, common communication mechanisms, common data stores, so our products were essentially built to be integrated," he says.

The investment in a common code base paid off about 18 months ago, when ManageEngine launched a product called IT360. The software has hooks into the company's entire suite of tools, and gives managers visibility into any of the alerts generated by the point products (including IBM i server metrics via Apps Manager, it's worth adding). In February, ManageEngine introduced an iPad interface for IT360, giving managers a powerful (and, dare say, cool) IT management tool they can carry around with them.

Social media is another area of investment for ManageEngine. The company is currently working on a new product that will enable its customers to communicate important IT-related events via social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. The product, which will live in the cloud, will have hooks into Applications Manager, OpManager, and ServiceDesk, and provide the capability to communicate with employees or customers via social media. Since it lives in the cloud, the new product will be particularly useful for communicating with employees during emergencies or IT outages, when primary communication vehicles are unavailable, Sabhlok says. It will also find use with regular day-to-day activities, such as informing users of password changes.

ManageEngine is particularly attuned to the concept of real-time IT, and moving beyond reliance on batch-oriented communication methods, such as email and the telephone. In this respect, some of the work that the company is doing with chat will be quite useful for enabling real-time IT. Chat (as Web-based instant messaging is often called) has already been embedded into ServiceDesk, and the vendor is looking at other ways to use it.

Being flexible in the adoption of new technology is important for ManageEngine, for several reasons. "In the past, IT was a support organization for a company. But now companies are introducing new business models, new products, and new companies that are based on technology. The strategic importance of IT has been raised, and the demand on IT has been raised," Sabhlok says.

"Yet companies are still struggling to manage the old technologies in the organization, and are frankly being overwhelmed by new technology, such as mobile devices that are coming into the organization, and other new technologies that are changing the landscape, things like virtualization and on-demand," he continues. "Those are all technologies that organizations would love to adopt as quickly as possible, but in many cases are behind the eight ball because IT just can't keep up.

"So our strategy is to support these new technologies, things like virtualization, on-demand applications, cloud-based computing, and mobile, both from a perspective of making sure that our applications are available on mobile devices" and mobile device management (MDM). "And it's leveraging theses social applications to better enable IT organizations to respond at the new speed of business."


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