Opening the lid on FCAPS model

For the past decade, the structure of network management environments has evolved based on five key components, collectively dubbed the FCAPS model. However, with today’s networks becoming increasingly complex, there is a debate as to whether these elements cover all the essentials, or simply reflect the bare necessities.

The FCAPS model- which stands for fault tolerance, configuration management, accounting, performance management and security – has been used by net operators and vendors alike as a guideline for end-to-end network management solutions. But according to industry experts, the model may be lacking some key points in order to suit the needs of IT environments as they moving forward.

“Fundamentally, [FCAPS] are the areas of functionality that should exist in any product or environment in network management,” offered Stephen Elliot, research director for Hurwitz Group in Boston. “I think, moving forward, the model is going to have to include openness. It is one thing to have those strengths or functionalities of the FCAPS model; that’s great and you need to have that to be in the game. But, moving forward now, helping users get more out of [products] through integration with other areas outside the core areas will be extremely beneficial.”

Elliot explained that enterprises can no longer be satisfied with proprietary, single-function offerings. He said that management solutions must have integration points and some degree of openness in terms of data sharing.

“It has to have visibility into other areas outside of where it started,” he said. “(For example), if I am a network management product, it is great to know just about the network. But, in order to add value onto these offerings, you probably want to know what is happening on the storage side or what is happening in the database and application sides. This type of data sharing is increasingly going to be important for users because it is one thing to manage and monitor, but users want to get more business-centric and get more business value with IT.”

Computer Associates International, Inc. agreed with Elliot’s assessment of the current management structure and noted that the company sees the FCAPS model expanding. CA said that it has recently been positioning its flagship network management solution, Unicenter, in a way that makes it easier for the end user to integrate different point products.

“The ultimate goal of network management is, how do you optimize your network?” said David Hochhauser, vice-president of marketing for Unicenter Solutions in Islandia, N.Y. “In one sense we have completely and dramatically increased our focus on working with various partners. We do try to do more things ourselves, but recognize that it is critical for the whole ecosystem to build out and we need to have a lot of strong partners.”

Built into Unicenter, Hochhauser added, is the capability to integrate with other network management providers.

“These people either fill in the gaps, or customers just want different products installed. It is critical to be able to interoperate. No one company is going to have it all.”

For Canada Life Financial Corp., an international insurance company based in Toronto, the concept of open systems is practically mouth-watering. According to Scott Martin, director of global services for Canada Life, vendors are beginning to understand that it is imperative to be open.

“Openness is critically important,” Martin said. “I think that there is enough of it going on now that anyone who isn’t looking at cross-platform environment tools is really going to miss out.”

However, Martin added that in terms of the FCAPS model itself, there is really nothing basic about it. He explained that the model is very relevant to today’s networks and added that in reality, in terms of managing, monitoring and maintaining networks, the time cannot be afforded to go beyond the basics.

“From a senior executive point of view, they are only interested in [FCAPS] information,” Martin continued. “Senior executives don’t care what platform things run on specifically anymore. They want to be able to leverage existing platforms for as long as they can. If they can put in tools that tie everything together and integrate at least from a performance management point of view, that is where they are going to put their money.”