Unicenter digs out hidden cause of domino effect

CA has added features to its flagship network and systems management software that the company says will more quickly identify the root cause of problems and more intelligently monitor networks.

With Unicenter Network and Systems Management (NSM) 11.1, CA delivers on its promise of better integrating existing products and providing customers with a management database, industry watchers say. The company announced its management database last fall.

“The [management database] feeds information to management tools that administrators use to do their particular jobs, whether it is troubleshooting or compliance reporting or asset management,” says Jasmine Noel, a principal analyst with Ptak, Noel & Associates.

“It is very important to have the [management database] working well. CA seems to be running a close second to BMC in terms of delivered capabilities.”

Customers seem most taken with enhancements to its event correlation engine, which helps IT managers more quickly find the root cause of performance problems, and added intelligence in its agents.

The correlation features are part of CA’s Management Command Center, which displays related alerts and problem areas in a dashboard-style view.

The company says intelligence in its software agent technology enables the software to provide baselines for normal events and alerts on managed devices and adjust the monitoring thresholds accordingly.

This adaptive configuration capability reduces the amount of false alerts, lessens the need for systems administrators to manually adjust agent configuration and lets IT staff focus on the real problems, CA says.

Cody Lowder says the updated correlation and agent technology are two must-haves he suggested CA include while he beta-tested the software in the past year. The information systems and technology manager of enterprise management at Zions Management Services, a collection of banks distributed across the U.S. with more than 1,000 branches, says the upgraded correlation engine includes a better user interface, which pinpoints problems much quicker.

“One of the big problems with monitoring large environments is it’s hard to discover the initial problem that caused all the dominoes to fall,” Lowder says. “Right now I send a bunch of notifications to a bunch of people about problems, but this seems like it would help us reduce the noise and notifications we send to technicians.”

The upgraded agent technology will make it easier for Lowder and his staff to update distributed agents from a central source without having to log on to the server. But CA still could add the ability to discover and install agents on servers automatically in its software, he says.

Lowder adds he has to do the initial install of the agent, but CA has made it easier to update and configure the agents after the initial manual install.

“CA has come a long way, but if I have a new server come online, I have to get the agent started,” he says. “It would be nicer to have that automated as well.”

The company also integrated software previously available as add-ons into the core offering. The add-on software that is part of NSM 11.1 includes Active Directory Management Option, NSM Systems Performance Option, NSM Monitoring Option for z/OS and Unicenter Management Portal.

Unicenter NSM uses central manager software and distributed-agent technology to collect data from and take action on managed devices. Unicenter NSM 11.1 is priced by separate components. The manager component is US$2,000, and each resource being managed is an additional variable cost, starting at $2,200.

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