All-in-one network packages gaining favour

As need for uptime, security and data protection in today’s dot-conomy take IT infrastructures to ever more complex levels, concerns over the interoperability of various system components becomes an almost overwhelming task for even experienced IT professionals.

The recent trend toward companies bundling the components of a network into a single solution with a sole point of contact is “the only way to ensure your network is going to stay up and running,” said Carolyn DiCenzo, chief analyst for management software at Gartner Group in San Jose, Calif.

“There’s no way [a technology manager] is going to want to undertake this alone,” DiCenzo said.

Both Legato Systems Inc. and Dell Computer Corp. have introduced similar bundling initiatives for customers looking for guidance in deploying e-networks. Legato Clusters is a multivendor offering that delivers an off-the-rack network. Dell’s Internet Infrastructure Initiative resembles Dell’s traditional build-to-order business model, in which certified components are coupled depending on each customer’s needs.

Participants in the Legato Clusters’ offering include Legato, IBM, Caldera Systems, Network Appliances, and EMC. Most notable are the presence of Cisco System’s Local Director for load balancing; the option of Red Hat Linux, which includes Perl scripting components to customize the operating system; and the WebShield e-ppliance from PGP/Network Associates, a firewall and security gateway.

“What we’ve done is make it easier for companies to implement high-availability e-commerce systems,” said Terry Dickson, vice-president of the Data Availability Division at Legato.

“We’ve looked at all the possible points of failure [throughout the combined network] and provide a higher availability and reliability for each of those points, including firewalls, routers, servers, and application monitoring as well as integrating on back-end storage devices.”

Dell’s Internet Infrastructure Initiative also offers certified solutions comprised of multiple vendor offerings. But Dell isn’t providing anything as preconfigured as Legato Clusters. Instead, Dell is packaging solutions on a flexible, case-by-case basis.

“We haven’t put a cap on what’s inside or outside our area of expertise,” said Dell spokesman John Weisblatt.

Dell’s wide breadth of options stretch from newly released PowerApp appliance servers for both Windows and Linux, to PowerApp .cache (a relaunched caching product that uses Novell ICS software), to partnerships with outsourcers and financing options.

“Dell is strong on desktop and database servers, but we want to go to the middle tier of Internet infrastructure: Web servers, cache servers, [and] traffic management,” said Joe Barkin, the director of business development for Internet server products at Dell.

When considering the Dell model, time to deployment is critical.

“The benefit of [Legato Clusters] is we know it will work ahead of time. I can envision in the Dell scenario combining, say, five things together, then Dell has to go to each vendor and say you have to tweak your code. That takes more time,” Gartner Group’s DiCenzo said.

“Working together ahead of time and being able to roll [a solution] out as certified perhaps gives the customers less flexibility than the Dell model, but certainly a lot more confidence.”