CA Takes Cue From Open Source: Free Monitoring Tool
Nimsoft Monitor Snap for 30 devices is available for free download; CA seeks to build community around it.
CA Technologies, the grand dame of packaged software with a newly installed CEO, is turning over a new leaf.
Its sophisticated mainframe packages often carried $50,000 or $75,000 price tags, but now CA is offering a free version of a key product, its Nimsoft Monitor monitoring system with all its core functionality. Dubbed Nimsoft Monitor Snap, it will be geared to small and midsize businesses with a limit of 30 devices monitored at a single site.
Thirty devices aren't very many, when you consider each application server, Web Server, database server or email server is a separate device. So some customers, CA clearly hopes, will move up to the beefier versions that monitor hundreds or thousands of devices.
"Snap will appeal to smaller and midsized IT organizations," said Bill Talbot, CA's senior director of solution marketing, in an interview. That type of organization wasn't the first target of the old CA organization. With Michael Gregoire in the CEO's office since January, CA has apparently borrowed a few ideas from open source code projects on getting a product established. The best way is to get users to come to CA and download it for a test drive, rather than going to potential users and trying to sell them on the idea of committing to a perpetual installation. Gregoire is the former CEO of Taleo, the online talent management software system that Oracle acquired in February 2012 for $1.9 billion.
Despite the limited number of devices covered, Nimsoft Snap has the same core feature set as Nimsoft Monitor. What makes the features useful is a probe, placed on a specific type of device, that captures information and sends it back to the Monitor. The Snap version includes 20 probes and can discover and monitor the operation of Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft's IIS Web server, Microsoft SQL Server and open source MySQL databases; it can collect information from both physical and virtual servers, VMware vCloud environments, Cisco Unified Computing Systems, Tomcat application servers and EMC Celera storage.
Also included are additional common devices, such as Cisco network equipment, LDAP directories and the response times from websites to end users.
Large enterprises often use 200 probes, said Talbot. A license for a premium level version of Nimsoft comes with 140 probes. Talbot didn't have the price of such a license available during the interview or supply it afterward. A support contract included with the 30-device coverage of Snap would run $15,000-$30,000, Talbot said.
The free version also comes without direct support from CA but CA will establish a community around Snap with forums and technical resources at snapcentral.ca.com. CA technicians will monitor discussions and jump in with expert guidance, when they choose.
Again, that's an attempt to borrow a lesson learned from the open source code movement that community support is often among the most effective forms of support. But the companies that pay for their version of Nimsoft and receive technical support may not be active members of such a community.
Snap will also have to compete with monitoring systems that started out and remain open source code, such as Nagios and GroundWork, backed by commercial companies making money only from technical support. These products already have vigorous communities surrounding them.
Talbot said CA is moving off its stationary position in software licensing, disrupting the packaged licensing model and reaching out to a new set of customers with its Snap offering. "Nimsoft's heritage is this midmarket and growth company market," he noted. By making Snap available for free download, it's reaching the system administrators who take responsibility for small and medium-sized data centers and giving them a reason to adopt a new CA product, he said.
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