Red Hat reels in new network services

The Linux seller acquires NOCpulse, a start-up whose server monitoring software is expected to speed the expansion of services offered through the Red Hat Network.

Stephen Shankland
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3 min read
Linux seller Red Hat has acquired NOCpulse, a start-up whose server-monitoring software is expected to bolster the services offered through the Red Hat Network.

On Wednesday, Mark de Visser, Red Hat's vice president of marketing, confirmed the acquisition and said the move will give customers more ways to monitor server performance characteristics such as how fast Web pages are delivered or how fast database transactions are completed.

Red Hat, the top seller of the Linux operating system, is tightening its focus on higher-end customers, in part through its Advanced Server product and in part through services sold through its Red Hat Network. RHN is used today to send software updates to customers, but Red Hat envisions a future in which it will let customers select from a menu of services--for example, one that allows them to "provision" new servers with preselected software.

"We have a number of plans that involve provisioning, system management, performance management (and) transaction monitoring," de Visser said. The acquisition of NOCpulse means Red Hat won't have to develop some of those features on its own. "This accelerates our capability to offer those services."

The move helps advance Red Hat in a popular area of the computing industry: letting customers administer large groups of computers en masse instead of one-by-one as a way to cut administrative costs. This vision includes automated policies that ensure performance, move jobs from one computer to another to accommodate changing demands, or shut down malfunctioning equipment--features that all require monitoring software such as that provided by NOCpulse.

Companies moving in this direction include Sun Microsystems, with its N1 effort, Hewlett-Packard, with its Utility Data Center, and IBM, with its autonomic computing effort.

NOCpulse's software looks good and "is a better deal for Red Hat than relying on HP Insight Manager, OpenView, CA Unicenter or IBM Director (would be)," said Illuminata analyst Jonathan Eunice. "It's a pretty nice step up for Red Hat, especially as they probably got this for a song."

Red Hat declined to disclose terms of the deal. De Visser said all NOCpulse's employees, who number less than 20, are moving into Red Hat's California offices.

The acquisition closed two weeks ago, de Visser said, and NOCpulse customers have been notified of the change. NOCpulse, founded in 2000, was based in Sunnyvale, Calif.

The NOCpulse services are currently separate, but Red Hat will integrate the control software with its own RHN control software so customers will have a single interface. The integration should be complete by early 2003, de Visser said.

NOCpulse should help Red Hat wring more revenue from its existing RHN subscriber base, de Visser said. Currently 600,000 computers are managed within the network, he said.

NOCpulse's software competes not just with packages from large software companies such as BMC and Computer Associates, but also with an open-source project called OpenNMS. "OpenNMS has some strong points (but) no one from the commercial space ever got behind it and gave it any kind of decent push," the way companies advanced open-source products such as Apache or Linux, said Eunice.

NOCpulse's Command Center software can monitor the performance not just of Linux servers, but also Unix servers running HP's HP-UX, Sun's Solaris and Intel servers running Microsoft Windows.