The Next Big 4 Framework?

Dave Link

As I watched Nimsoft’s big announcement webcast yesterday which they labeled Modern IT, couldn’t help but wonder, “Am I watching the birth of the next “Big 4” framework?” I mean, there are some striking similarities between Nimsoft’s recent industry moves and those of the original Big 4 in their early years:

  • Good foundational technology, but narrow in scope
  • Growth by acquisition
  • Bold marketing and aggressive sales

Yesterday, Nimsoft announced the addition of its Service Desk product which may be licensed standalone or bundled with Nimsoft Monitor (formerly Nimbus) in a package called Nimsoft Unified Manager. The Service Desk product is the result of the company’s quiet acquisition of InteQ last December.

In the three months since, Nimsoft has built a presentation layer to “unify” it with the Monitor product. You may recall Nimsoft acquired Intuitive in 2008 for its passive application monitoring technology and Cittio in 2009 to beef up its network mapping capabilities.

I’m starting to see a pattern emerge. And I can’t help but think that CA Technologies (formerly Computer Associates), the 35 year old veteran of the enterprise IT management software market with its roots in mainframe technology and who owns Nimsoft, is trying to reinvent itself through its fledgling new brand.

To its credit, CA is keeping Nimsoft somewhat insulated from its much bigger parent. But how long can this be sustained when the old and new collide in the market; when the Nimsoft sales rep. competes against the CA sales rep. in the same account with products that do the same thing?

In my mind, it is inevitable that Nimsoft becomes CA at some point. Or vice versa. How will Nimsoft continue to grow? History provides the answer. When a code base is designed for a single purpose, as Nimbus was, extending it organically to perform other capabilities is usually not viable.

It’s too hard and expensive. The much more affordable approach is to acquire technology and develop the integration glue-ware. The result is a patchwork quilt of technology. We saw this with each of the Big 4 frameworks over decades of acquisitions and the result was software bloat, incomplete customer deployments, and unrealized expectations.

Are we seeing history repeat itself? My bias is obvious. At ScienceLogic, we set out to build an integrated management fabric that consolidates critical management functions, using one code base, one CMDB and one presentation layer. Over the last three years, we completely re-architected our product to make it fully cloud-ready and scalable to handle the explosion in virtualized, cloud and mobile devices.

Still one code base and no glue-ware. Not a drop. We didn’t do this just because we like elegant technology (although we do) we did it because we are hell-bent on NOT creating another management patchwork quilt that leaves customers to stitch things together. What will Nimsoft acquire next, I wonder?

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