What is Unified Monitoring?
August 04, 2015

Dirk Paessler
Paessler AG

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Monitoring comes in many, many forms today: application, networking, infrastructure, data center, performance, virtual and now cloud. These terms pop up, often without distinction or acknowledgement that this new type of monitoring is not really new at all, but is rather a rehash of a much older “flavor” of monitoring. The explosion of terms to describe monitoring has more to do with the number of monitoring vendors, and more to the point, those vendors’ marketing departments, than it does with new forms of monitoring emerging.

Recently, the term “unified monitoring” has gained popularity, with both analysts and marketers pouncing on it aggressively. The idea that IT departments need to gain a “unified” view of their operations – all from a single pane of glass, no less – has been the underlying premise of many monitoring products. And while there certainly are some highly specialized tools that focus on specifics, NetFlow or packet sniffing for example, the majority of leading monitoring companies already provide comprehensive monitoring. For me, the question should always focus on what we as vendors can do to help the buy-side, and specifically, the overworked systems and network administrators of the world, and not how we can package and repackage our offerings.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the term unified monitoring – it is quite an accurate descriptor. What is wrong is how this term will become a banner for companies that don’t offer comprehensive monitoring, simply because the industry’s thought leaders and analysts have coalesced around it. When the technology industry, marketers and analyst community popularize new branding for existing products, inevitably there are companies with incomplete offerings that try to capitalize and, in doing so, confuse the marketplace.

From my perspective, there are four key qualifications for unified monitoring: the monitoring tool needs to be vendor neutral, scalable, provide a centralized view of the entire infrastructure including virtual environments, and support all of the most popular protocols. That’s a bit of a simplification, but those are the key requirements for a unified monitoring solution. Of course, these have long been the key requirements of a network or infrastructure monitoring tool as well.

What IT needs to hear is that monitoring will give them insight into their infrastructure, a watchful eye when they are away, and alerts that call their attention to issues before they become problems that impact the business. IT departments have an enormous responsibility, because today revenue generation depends on the smooth functioning of their IT infrastructure. Interruptions or delays in IT systems can cause serious damage to productivity and profitability. IT does not need more expressive terminology to combat this problem; they need assurances that monitoring tools will deliver real-time insight into their networks, servers and applications.

If we as vendors really want to help IT, we should do a better job articulating what we do, and truly tell it like it is – monitoring that can scale to your entire infrastructure and watch over it in real-time will help you do your job better. That’s the message they need to hear.

Dirk Paessler is CEO and Founder of Paessler AG.

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