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Start-up tackles data center complexity

Software upstart Collation is entering an emerging market for applications that make it easier to manage complex business computing systems.

A Palo Alto, Calif.-based start-up next week will enter an emerging market for software that makes it easier to manage complex business computing systems.

The company, called Collation, will on Monday release configuration management software called Confignia. Collation will make the announcement in Orlando at BEA Systems' eWorld customer conference; Configia works with BEA's WebLogic application server software, according to Collation.

Confignia creates a map of a data center and the connections between various components such as the databases and enterprise applications that run on different hardware servers. The software can query those components to monitor their operations. The initial version will be able to draw information from BEA's WebLogic application server, Oracle's database management software, Sun Microsystems servers and Cisco Systems routers.

In the event of a breakdown, companies can call up a console to spot problems and their causes, such as an operating system upgrade that isn't working properly. To trace problems now, it's not uncommon for several administrators to launch multiple systems management consoles to figure out the dependencies and pinpoint where changes occurred, said Robert Roblin, chief executive and co-founder of Collation.

"The processes of executing upgrades and configuration changes is very manual and very much a black art as much as it is a science," said Mary Johnston Turner, an analyst at Summit Strategies. "The hazards associated with changes are real. It's a very specific problem Collation is trying to tackle, and that's a good thing."

The idea behind Collation originated when the founders were managing a data center at DSL (digital subscriber line) provider Covad Communications, according to Roblin. He found the complexity of administering thousands of interlinked data center components, such as networking hardware, servers, storage devices and software, made it difficult to troubleshoot problems and raised the overall costs of operations.

Other software makers, such as Relicore and Troux, provide similar capabilities, Roblin said.