Technology Convergence = Network Performance Management Opportunities
Compliance, security, VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol), applications, and distributed networks are creating network performance management sales opportunities for VARs.
With all the talk of simplification among networking technology vendors, the opposite is actually taking place. Networks are becoming more complicated, slower, and more difficult to manage. The 24/7 network availability requirements of many companies add to this challenge. In a survey conducted by Network Instruments, LLC, 45% of the respondents now have VoIP running on their data networks, further complicating network performance management (NPM). When you add virtualization to the mix, NPM becomes even cloudier. There's no doubt these factors have made our networks more difficult to manage. There's also no doubt that with complication comes VAR opportunities. What should VARs know about these opportunities? We asked five industry experts for advice.
Get To Know The Flavors Of NPM
Just what is NPM? Let's use our five experts' companies as examples of the different approaches to managing network performance. Diskeeper Corp. provides disk defragmentation tools to keep computer hard disks running at optimum levels. Network performance can be degraded considerably when a file server disk is fragmented (pieces of files scattered across a disk).
Network Instruments provides hardware and software that monitors network performance and provides network forensics (the capture, recording, and analysis of network events in order to discover the source of security attacks or other problem incidents). Radware, Inc. offers appliance-based solutions that speed the delivery, access, security, and performance of applications. Raritan, Inc. makes analog and digital KVM (keyboard/video/mouse) switches, serial console controls, remote access products, and centralized server management solutions for computers, servers, and other network devices. Alternative Technology, Inc. (Arrow ECS) is a VAD (value-added distributor) that provides products, training, and VAR support for products in the server-based computing, infrastructure edge, security, wireless, and network management areas. To summarize, NPM can be performed with a single product, but is more typically performed with a combination of products such as software, appliances, and even managed services. The ultimate goal is to maintain network availability and performance.
Start With Compliance-Controlled Customers
Network management solutions make good sense for any business with mission-critical applications. However, when it comes to selling these solutions, why not start by targeting captive audiences? That's exactly the situation with any business or organization under regulatory guidelines. In regulated industries such as finance and healthcare, NPM isn't just a luxury — it's a requirement.
"Telecommunications, government, and healthcare are strong verticals for selling network management products," says Daylen Farkas, director of channel sales for Diskeeper. "These industries are all under the guidelines of some strict regulations and must be able to ensure network uptime. Network management solutions can help provide that uptime."
Paul Fiore, the VP of channel management for Radware, adds, "We see a particular need for NPM among companies in heavily regulated industries such as government, healthcare, banking, and financial services. These companies and organizations grapple with stringent security requirements." Fiore touched on another hot button for network management — the increased focus on network security. A big part of managing a network is maintaining a high level of security for data — regulated or not. Providing your customers with products to increase network security is of no use if the customer has no way to monitor the status of the network. For instance, how many of you have installed a network forensics tool and surprised your customer with the number of network intrusions caught in the first day?
Bruce Clark, VP of sales for Network Instruments, adds, "Many network security teams spend significant amounts of money on point solutions to strengthen their security, without taking into account that these tools can be circumvented. Other security teams have issues of being blamed for network slowdowns, but don't have the ability to provide evidence to the contrary. Those problems present network forensic sales opportunities for VARs."
Tom Zorn, executive VP for Alternative Technology, has a slightly different opinion about the vertical nature of the NPM opportunity. "The NPM opportunity is more horizontal than vertical," he explains. "There are regulatory drivers in certain verticals, such as HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] and GLBA [Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act], that force certain levels of network management. But, even if a customer is not controlled by compliance, there are still plenty of sales opportunities for VARs in the NPM space."
SMBs Need NPM Too
Supporting Zorn's point is the fact that NPM solutions are moving downstream to the midsize customer. "The midmarket segment has been underserved by the large enterprise solutions providers," says Herman Chan, director for Raritan. "Enterprise solutions typically are expensive and complicated — too much so for smaller businesses. Many vendors are now offering midmarket network management solutions that have lower cost entry points and are easier to manage than enterprise solutions."
The midmarket also is becoming the target segment for many vendors, such as those selling VoIP and network security. "Many companies have adopted a 'do more with less' approach, especially when it comes to IT," explains Fiore. "IT managers are under increased pressure to consolidate their data centers, optimize each machine so fewer servers are needed, and reduce management and head count costs. Technology continues to play a role in helping companies achieve those goals."
Employ A 'Divide And Conquer' Strategy
With so many NPM challenges and so many NPM solutions to address those challenges, how does a VAR get started in this space? Set an NPM goal that is achievable, such as learning one solution and offering it to existing customers. For example, smaller VARs can offer a product like Diskeeper that requires little training and a small investment up front — but shows the customer measurable performance increases. Larger VARs can consider offering application performance solutions such as those from Radware. Advanced resellers may want to consider implementing network forensic and monitoring tools like those from Raritan and Network Instruments. In any situation, VARs should seek the assistance of a VAD such as Alternative Technology for training and product configuration help. Whether you start small or set your goals high, the opportunities in NPM are going to increase. Don't wait until your customers are buying NPM solutions from your competition.