The year ahead for Cisco and Microsoft

Cisco and Microsoft typically come to mind when talking network equipment and operating system software, respectively. Yet in 2007 these vendors separately could solidify their roles in the management world as well.

BMC, CA, HP and IBM have dominated the network and systems management market for quite some time. Despite myriad vendors emerging and dissolving, there hasn’t been much by means of competition for the heavyweights.

“It is difficult to become a real threat to the big four management players these days,” said Stephen Elliot, a senior analyst at IDC.

That’s partly because these veteran management vendors tend to be the ones controlling the market, either by acquiring the competition or coining the latest trends. But it also has to do with how willing enterprise IT managers are to remove old software and start fresh with news systems. Enter Cisco and Microsoft. Industry watchers speculate — based on recent moves and future plans by the vendors — that they might just be willing to take advantage of their respective installed bases of customers to sell management technologies to existing accounts.

“As Cisco and Microsoft — and to some extent EMC — get more aggressive in technology, OEM deals and acquisitions around management, you can’t help but wonder if they aren’t going aggressively after that market share,” Elliot said.

To start, Cisco in late 2005 started its managing campaign with the debut of its Network Application Performance Analysis product suite, and then in summer 2006 announced its Proactive Automation of Change Execution suite, which the vendor is able to deliver through a licensing deal with Opsware.

“Cisco’s is a broader discussion around management,” said Dennis Drogseth, a vice-president with Enterprise Management Associates. “It has the configuration tools, but its potential goes beyond that.” The vendor is betting that its hold on the network equipment market will parlay into management budget dollars.

Separately, Microsoft could get some management market share based on brand recognition alone. The vendor, which is focusing its 2007 on Vista and Longhorn deliveries, could also capitalize on management opportunities.

But virtualization could be what puts Microsoft over the top in terms of management. Microsoft announced it would acquire application virtualization vendor Softricity this past summer and also expanded its systems management capabilities beyond Systems Management Server and Microsoft Operations Manager software.

“When I ask enterprise clients who the management market share leaders will be in 2007, a majority of them say Microsoft,” said Jean-Pierre Garbani, a vice-president with Forrester Research. “Brand perception is still very strong, stronger than innovation and visionary thinking. It is an advantage for Microsoft.”


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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