Cisco Buys A Net Management Bargain

Its acquisition of Atlantech Technologies for $180 million could give its carrier equipment a key advantage over competitors

March 2, 2000

3 Min Read
Cisco Buys A Net Management Bargain

Cisco Systems Inc. may have picked up quite a bargain with its acquisition of Atlantech Technologies Ltd., a Scottish vendor of network management software.

Under the deal, announced yesterday (March 1), Cisco is only paying $180 million in stock for Atlantech, but what it's getting in return could be an enormous asset.

Atlantech has some state-of-the-art element management software that Cisco plans to use throughout its service provider product line, replacing existing OpenView technology from Hewlett-Packard Co,, according to Rob Brading, vice president of sales and market development at Atlantech.

Atlantech's software promises to be far more scalable than OpenView, and to facilitate the development of net management applications by third parties.

It's clear that Atlantech's software -- which was called "Access Vision" and is now being renamed "Cisco Element Management Framework" or CEMF - will also play a key role in Cisco's optical networking developments. It's already been integrated into Cisco's GSR12000 top-of-the-range router. And next week, engineers from Pirelli Optical Systems - acquired by Cisco for $2.15 billion last December - are flying to Scotland to begin discussions on how to integrate Atlantech's software in its optical networking gear, according to Brading.

What's so great about Atlantech's element management software? The best way of addressing this question is to start with a little history.

Atlantech was founded in 1992 and started off developing DSL (digital subscriber line) equipment which ended up being used by British Telecommunications PLC in video-on-demand trials. During the trials it became apparent that a management system capable of monitoring very large numbers of DSL connections was needed, so Atlantech set about developing one.

Atlantech took some design decisions at that time (1994) that have ended up giving its software a big advantage over more traditional carrier management systems, based on ITU standards that were designed around circuit rather than packet based backbones.

In particular, Atlantech decided to base its element management software on an object oriented database, which has ended up giving it a performance advantage over flat-file based systems, according to Brading. It's also based on a client-server model, enabling networks to be monitored from multiple consoles. In addition, its developments are based on CORBA, a standard that means that Atlantech's software can interwork with other vendor's developments. And Atlantech created a set of tools to make it easy to develop applications for its platform.

Atlantech also adopted a completely distributed architecture for its software, which makes it very scalable. "We're doing some massive scalability tests at the moment," says Brading. Cisco is running SNMP simulators on 60 Sun workstations at a UK facility and ratcheting up the load on Atlantech's software. So far, it's got to 3.6 million managed objects, according to Brading. "Currently, we're doing half a billion polls and more than 3 million traps per day," he says.

by Peter Heywood, international editor, Light Reading

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