"My philosophy about network management is to look for tools that solve specific problems without going with an enterprise network-management platform," says Hutchinson.
The need for monitoring application response time isn't new, and at some level, SLM tools aren't new either. In fact, today's SLM tools--while not identical--recall products that existed in the systems network architecture (SNA) world. In the past year or two, the introduction of and emphasis on SLM tools is new, only in so far as the tools have become available for distributed applications. These applications--in particular, e-commerce, intranet, extranets, supply-chain automation, and e-mail-are bombarding corporate networks. And the critical nature of these distributed applications has raised the stakes for network performance and accountability. At the same time, network infrastructure costs are rising and network managers are continually asked to justify the increased expenditures.
A new perception
Perhaps it's best to view SLM as a change in mind-set along the lines of customer service, where the network exists to provide a service for the business. "SLM is not so much about looking at the network as it is [about] looking at the business," says Elizabeth Rainge, a research manager at International Data Corp. (IDC), of Framingham, Mass.
In a 1998 joint study on SLM by Renaissance Worldwide Inc., of Newton, Mass., and McConnell Consulting Inc., of Boulder, Colo., industry researchers found that SLM implementations are in the visionary-early adopter phase and that IT departments are currently focusing on network availability management.
The study looks at 37 businesses responsible for managing more than 370,000 networked desktops in various vertical-market segments, and reveals four drivers that play a major role in shaping an organization's implementation plans. The most significant driver for SLM is increased network availability, chosen by 70% of the respondents. Network availability, according to John Morency, vice president of the IT consulting business at Renaissance Worldwide, is the critical state-of-the-art metric used for most users' organizations. The other most significant drivers are decreasing operational costs, supporting new network services, and requests from business units, selected by 52%, 48%, and 48%, respectively. (See chart, "What's driving people to use SLM?")