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Not Microsoft-only anymore: Why NetIQ now loves Linux

NetIQ is no longer Microsoft monogamous. The company announced its new NetIQ AppManager WebConsole to manage Linux and Unix environments this week.

NetIQ Corp. is best known as Microsoft's right-hand systems management solutions vendor. Previously MS-monogamous, the San Jose, Calif.-based company is now playing the field, unveiling Monday the NetIQ AppManager Web Console containing new modules to manage Linux and Unix environments. What's behind NetIQ's departure from its long-term focus on MS and MS only? On the eve of the announcement, David Pann and Scott Hollis explained why NetIQ believes that Linux support has to be included in enterprise management systems nowadays. Hollis is senior director of field marketing, and Pann is vice president of product management for NetIQ's Systems Management Group.

NetIQ has been very successful in the Windows management space, so why make the move to Linux?

Pann: Linux is the train that's coming. You can either get on or get off. We're helping our customers get on. We think that [industry analysts] are correct in saying that, by 2006-2007, Linux could be 40% of the data center.

In data centers, Linux [like Windows] runs on lots of low-cost machines with many applications, so there's a big need for centralized systems management. In Windows systems, our management tools brought sanity to chaos. We can bring that to Linux, too. We think that the ease of use and deploy-ability we bring to the marketplace will be valued in the Linux space.

What do you think the switch to Linux is happening now?

Pann: There's a big question out there right now: "What's the installed base of NT users going to do?" Are those folks going to migrate to Windows Server 2003 or to Linux? Just this past summer, the migrations to Linux got started. In the next 12-to-24 months, we think more migrations are going to be happening. That's because Linux has caused everyone to rethink the core economics of the data center.

Wouldn't moving from Windows to Linux and Linux-only in the enterprise also bring sanity to chaos?

Pann: Most environments are not going to be Linux-only. It makes a lot of sense for us to offer an overall solution that can architecturally manage Windows, Unix and Linux environments. IT shops need to be able to use the same console, the same reporting tools to manage all environments.

Hollis: This is NetIQ's key differentiator. We're talking about the exact same console -- browser-based on IE [Microsoft Internet Explorer], Netscape, or Mozilla. You don't have to do funky redirection, like when I'm on Linux I can only make a subset of the environments, or on Windows I can only make a subset of the environments. Within either of those camps you get to manage the complete environment.

Why did NetIQ use a Web management tool as its first Linux offering?

Pann: We asked: "Where are people investing in Linux?" Our answer was new web-based applications. The number one app running on Linux is Apache [Web server]. Number two is [Borland Enterprise Server] AppServer. In third place is the database. All that adds up into Linux's strength being in Web-based applications, and that's why we're making the investment to bring management to that environment.

What's the competitive landscape for NetIQ in the Linux management solution space?

Pann: There's the homegrown stuff and the point solutions that don't do the whole job. Then, there are the framework providers -- such as CA, BMC and Tivoli -- who are offering big expensive systems to solve a problem on a $600 box, like taking a 800-pound sledgehammer to a tack.

Hollis: As Linux becomes mission critical, it's important that a low-cost solution comes to market, but that low-cost solution has to be integrated into the overall systems management scheme.

The NetIQ AppManager Web Console comes at a purchase price of $2,500 for five concurrent users, with modules starting at $750 per server; but, how does it fare in cost of ownership?

Hollis: When we say low-cost alternative, we're not talking about just purchase price. We're referring to the cost to deploy, the cost to use, the fast time to value. We've encountered a number of situations in the last 12 months where customers are coming due on their maintenance contracts for framework systems and are opting to go with AppManager to manage those systems. They're doing this because of AppManager's lower initial cost and ease of deployment and fast time to value.

Pann:Analysts say that customers should expect to spend four-to-seven times the cost of the initial purchase for services required to fully deploy and utilize that solution. We don't require many dollars of services to one dollar of purchase price.

What must-have management tools does AppManager Web Console bring to Linux environments?

Pann: AppManager can handle all of the major components needed to be managed on a Linux Web environment. Managers can go into the app server and see and understand the health of their servers, their JavaBeans, and so on. They can access detailed information on their components in real-time. There's command line interface support with scripts for lights-out management. That's just the short list.

How is NetIQ helping companies handle migrations?

Pann: Migrations take data centers from State A to State B where they're running both the old and new to State C where there's a complete migration.

As you migrate apps and systems from Window to Linux or Unix to Linux, NetIQ's solution lets you manage whatever systems you're running from one console. The existing resources that were managing, say, Windows can now be managing Linux with the same reports. You're not having to think about a whole set of new management policies and procedures. You can use existing ones to help you go from point A to point C. Transitions are never painless, but having one management system that can minimize the pain.

Even if you're not migrating, then having a management system that can handle other platforms is like an insurance policy for future migrations.

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