When John Melillo purchased IT performance monitoring software for his firm, he decided it was better to be a big fish in a small pond and chose software from Nimsoft, a 10-year-old performance and availability management vendor in Redwood City, Calif., that has about 700 customers.
Melillo is the president of Diversified Media Group (DMG), a Kenilworth, N.J.-based managed network provider that has been around since 2001. The company helps deliver private video and digital signage networks, particularly in consumer retail and public venues. Because of the fast pace of its marketing and advertising industry, Melillo made it a high priority for DMG to be proactive in all IT issues.
"In our business world … when a lot of people talk about monitoring, they're actually doing a reactive call center," he said. "But things are moving in real time. The idea of sending data to a marketing and ad network is a lot more stringent. It's a need-to-be-there type of situation. We decided that the only way we could become what would be considered a fully monitored network was to find world-class networking software."Networking monitoring: The big four
Of course, Melillo considered other options. The "big four," as Nimsoft often refers to them, are the dominant players in the market. They include IBM Tivoli, Hewlett-Packard Co.'s OpenView, CA Unicenter and BMC Patrol. Dennis Callaghan, an enterprise software analyst at the 451 Group, said that Nimsoft is one of the biggest players among the smaller IT monitoring companies, with others that include Uptime Software, AdventNet, Precise Software, ScienceLogic, Digital Fuel and ManageSoft in the mix.
"Nimsoft has turned into a pretty broad IT management product, especially with its acquisition of Indicative," Callaghan said.
Callaghan said that he's seen Nimsoft "do a pretty good job of embracing the whole management of virtualized systems," a feature that he said might cause him to give Nimsoft an advantage over other vendors in the area, even larger ones. He said that Indicative was at the forefront of the issue as well. "If you put the two together, you have a good combination of managing and monitoring virtualized environments," he said.
DMG's Melillo added that the reporting capabilities of Nimsoft were much better than those of its competitors.
"We deliver a lot of reports," he said. "In a lot of our networks, they're giving affidavits to their companies, and they're expecting us to hand them those reports so they can turn it into an advertising affidavit."
Other aspects of Nimsoft's software that appealed to Melillo and Diversified were its granularity and an intuitive graphical interface that displayed parameters such as compliance period, operating period, and compliance percentage, he said.Never lost in the shuffle
For Melillo, going with Nimsoft essentially meant getting more attention that the company would have received from one of the big four.
"We don't feel like we've been put into some box," he said. "We feel like they're highly interested in us and believe they will be there to work with us. I think that's important for companies that are small- to medium-sized and growing."
Melillo continued: " To get bigger, we need a software provider that's willing to roll up their shirtsleeves and work with us."
Callaghan said Melillo's perspective is on target. Smaller providers will tend to be more responsive to new requests for functionality to be added. Meanwhile, with a behemoth like IBM or HP, a smaller company like Diversified could make a recommendation, but until several companies ask for the same thing, it's doubtful the change will be implemented.
Another benefit of Nimsoft is the agility that comes with being small. "No pun intended," Callaghan said, "but Nimsoft can be a little more nimble in embracing new technologies. With IBM, HP and BMC, it can take a little bit longer to get it out of the labs. There's more bureaucracy to deal with."
There are, of course, downsides to working with a small vendor. For one, the software may perform unpredictably, as it's not as mature as applications from a large provider. Lack of maturity isn't necessarily a bad thing, given the bugs and bloat that can plague an older application, but it can lead to surprises.
Further, with small software vendors, there's no telling what the future holds. Look out several years, and it's pretty much a given that IBM Tivoli and CA Unicenter will continue to survive . With a smaller vendor, however, you have no such assurances.
"You're not sure what the end game is going to be," Callaghan said. "Is it going to go public in a couple years? Will someone buy them, and then you're looking at a migration?"
IT industry investors, Callaghan added, have watched Nimsoft closely because many suspect a buyout or an initial public offering in the offing.