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Bay Networks forges Net tools

Bay Networks will release a major upgrade of its network management suite by the end of the summer.

Bay Networks (BAY) will release a major upgrade of its network management suite by the end of the summer.

In a briefing with CNET's NEWS.COM, Bay executives detailed enhancements to their management strategy intended to unify local area elements of the company's existing Optivity application suite to their wide area management counterparts. The suite, which helps manage the company's hardware, will soon offer users a single interface for network management and policy procedures.

The new version is part of Bay's Adaptive Networking strategy, which is aimed at simplifying its approach toward networks. New Optivity features will include interface unification, a more policy-based approach toward management, and of course, increased use of the Web to provide administrators with information about their network from any PC with a browser and Net access.

The market for software of this kind is expected to experience an annual revenue growth rate of close to 20 percent through 2001, according to International Data Corporation. Total worldwide revenues for 1996 were nearly $200 million, according to the market researcher.

The next version of the suite, Optivity 8.0, which is due by September, will include an application called the Network Systems Manager, which includes the features of both current Optivity Campus and Optivity Enterprise suites of LAN (local area network) and WAN (wide area network) management software tools.

The new version will also feature a networkwide configuration utility suite called Net Architect, the next generation of Bay's LAN Architect application, that offers a global approach to ready network hardware for production use. The new configuration tool will tie Bay's Centillion switches to the company's wide-area boxes under one interface as well.

The new release tries to take a more policy-based approach toward the management of a group of disparate network devices, including Ethernet and cell-based ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) networking technology, according to Craig Easley, product line manager for Optivity. Bay has its hands firmly in both markets.

Another goal is to unify disparate applications that cover the company's LAN and WAN gear separately and do not integrate. An example will be the next-generation Net Architect application. "What we're striving for is to have one configuration tool across the entire Bay family," Easley said. "We think we can do it with this one app."

"Optivity has always kind of been a leader in terms of applications and user interface," said Don Miller, analyst for market researcher Dataquest. "You need to look at the network as one system and not as a bunch of separate devices."

Other features in Optivity 8.0 will include Web-enabled interfaces for management of Bay's routers and use of agent technology to imbed Web servers in Bay devices so that an administrator can use a Web address to access information on a switch or router. In the future, the central Optivity management console will become a database that correlates a variety of information for administrators. All reporting tools in the Optivity family will also soon feed data to browser-based consoles.

"It's going to have the flexibility so that it could be an end-to-end management tool," Easley said. "It will also continue to be a strong component part of an overall management strategy."

Bay is not alone in developing advanced features for its management software. Cisco Systems is expected to debut new features for its network management tools, long thought of as a weak spot for the company. 3Com has also embarked on an ambitious effort to add management functions for its network devices through TranscendWare. Cabletron systems has expanded its Spectrum platform away from network device management to incorporate elements such as server systems and include correlation capabilities like those found in Computer Associates Unicenter-style enterprise management system.

The Optivity tools came from the Synoptics LAN-side of the merger with Wellfleet Communications that formed Bay Networks. A 1997 IDC survey of over 100 user sites found Bay currently has a small lead on networking infrastructure competitors such as Cisco and 3Com in managing network elements with 11.5 percent of the market.

Where does Optivity fit in an overall management strategy? Most administrators say network management capabilities are an essential feature, especially for large enterprise networks where Bay's strength lies. Optivity's applications tie into SNMP (simple network management protocol)-based Unix management platforms such as Hewlett-Packard's OpenView and Sun Microsystems' SunNet Manager, among others, as well as LAN-based products running on Microsoft's Windows NT. Most administrators will not necessarily use an Optivity application or suite without other products--often already installed and running--as well.

"Network management has become an expectation in a lot of people's minds," Dataquest's Miller noted. "It's a check mark kind of thing."

Pricing information for the upcoming release of Optivity is not yet available.

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