ManageEngine Aims to Give IT a 'Seat at the Head Table'

by Kenneth Corbin

Armed with a suite of low-cost management and monitoring tools, firm seeks to free up IT managers for more strategic pursuits.

For ManageEngine, management efficiencies in the data center are not an end in and of themselves.

Certainly, that is the company's immediate mission, which it promotes through a bevy of SaaS tools for IT management, spanning network and server management, as well as products for desktops and applications.

But the efficiencies to be gained through the firm's software-driven IT tools are really a pathway to a greater goal, according to ManageEngine President Raj Sabhlok.

"There's a seat at the head table that IT managers want to occupy because they want to be involved with the business decisions of the company. They want to help drive company strategy," Sabhlok said. "But as long as IT is seen as the organization that just pulls the levers and keeps the server lights flashing, it doesn't have a place at that table. It's just another cost center."

So how can they earn that seat at the table?

ManageEngine's suite of SaaS tools, each available for trial as a free download, are grouped in a long list of product categories, touching on pain points, such as compliance and log analysis, bandwidth monitoring and traffic analysis, facilities management and active directory management.

"IT managers know that there's probably a better way to deliver services and support the enterprise, but few of them have the time or resources to step back and think strategically about how to do this because they spend most of their time keeping the infrastructure running and trying to respond to the new demands that the business organizations throw their way," Sabhlok said.

"IT organizations that use our SaaS offerings no longer have to divert resources to manage the infrastructure that provides the IT management services--we do that," he added. The idea, then, is that once IT managers and staff are liberated from the nuts and bolts of systems management, they are free to focus on more strategic initiatives and deliver other services to colleagues in the enterprise.

Products like the firm's IT360 dashboard, which provides an integrated and holistic view of a company's IT assets, are geared for simple, at-a-glance monitoring and management. Those simplified visualizations invite even non-technical personnel to monitor both IT and business processes, such as network availability and e-commerce sales conversions.

In the area of server performance management, ManageEngine lists 10 offerings, including the OpStor multi-vendor storage management tool and free applications for monitoring SQL and Windows health, Hyper V and VM configuration, and a SharePoint health monitor.

ManageEngine is a division of Zoho Corporation. The firm was born 15 years ago as AdventNet, providing low-level element monitoring tools and network management systems that catered primarily to the telecom and networking sectors. Over the years, Zoho emerged as a fast-rising division within AdventNet with a portfolio of online collaboration and productivity products. In 2008, the company was reorganized at the Zoho Corporation, with ManageEngine structured as the business line focusing on IT management tools.

ManageEngine is built to compete with the industry heavyweights on price. The firm hews to what it calls the "90-10 rule," a formulation that claims to deliver 90 percent of the functionality found in comparable offerings from the so-called Big Four (HP, IBM, CA and BMC) at 10 percent of the price.

"People look at the suite of products we offer, and they can't believe the products will really do what we say they can do--if the low price we charge is all we can get for those products. There's an assumption that the products must be flawed or we would be able to charge a lot more for them," Sabhlok said. "If we added a few zeros to the price, we might gain instant credibility, but that's not our philosophy. We believe that if we create a good product and ask a reasonable price, people will buy it."

Over the years, ManageEngine and its earlier incarnations have flown largely under the radar, as the firm has eschewed advertising and heavy promotion. Instead, ManageEngine has racked up its more than 50,000 clients through word-of-mouth, viral promotion, according to Sabhlok.

"We don't have a sales force; we don't have fancy offices all over the world; we don't do glitzy promotions with Las Vegas showgirls," he said. "We sell our products over the Internet and our sales are viral. When we meet with customers, it's usually to roll up our sleeves and get something done."

Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects for more than four years, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here

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This article was originally published on Thursday Sep 22nd 2011
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