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November 23, 2005

WildPackets mulls alliance with NetScout

WildPackets Inc is considering an alliance with NetScout Systems Inc to bundle the latter's remote monitoring (RMON) and SNMP probe technology with its own Expert Analysis technology, according to WildPackets chief executive Mahboud Zabetian.

By CBR Staff Writer

Expert Analysis, in the world of protocol analysis, refers to a capability, usually licensed separately from the basic probes, to take the data they’re outputting and detect trends, signs of pre-existing problem scenarios and so on, thus removing a lot of the heavy lifting from network troubleshooting.

Experts were invented by the market leader, Network General Corp, back in the early nineties, but have now become a feature in its competitors’ probe portfolios, such that the term itself has become a generic one for the kind of technology that can automate the first phases of analysis.

Walnut Creek, California-based WildPackets, for instance, offers Expert versions of its discrete probes for individual protocols such as EtherPeek (the Expert version being EtherPeek NX), as well as a multi-protocol Expert, the Omni DNX Engine.

NetScout used to bundle Network General’s technology but stopped a few years ago, said Zabetian, explaining the rationale for a possible tie-up with the Westford, Massachusetts-based developer. And while NetScout is in a competitor to WildPackets in some areas, he saw more complementary features than head-to-head rivalry.

They’re primarily organized around selling their RMON and SNMP probes, which complement our DNX Engine, he said. We’ve already developed an RMONGrabber [announced earlier this month] for DNX that can take information from their probes.

Teaming the privately held WildPackets with Nasdaq-listed NetScout would, among other things, present a significant challenge for Network General. That company last year emerged from the bowels of infosec heavyweight McAfee Inc and is now touting its return to the protocol analysis fray, with renewed focus and deep pockets for R&D spending ($30m over the last year) thanks to the private equity investors that bought it and its own relatively large revenue.

Network General president Mike Pope has recently referred to the likes of WildPackets and NetScout as ankle biters that have taken advantage of the seven-year catnap his company underwent as the sniffer technologies division of McAfee (which at the time was renamed Network Associates), adding that the renascent Network General would retake market share lost to them during its Dark Ages.

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Zabetian has other ideas, however. He argued that WildPackets has made the running, particularly in areas such as portable probes, where far from offering, as Pope has suggested something almost as good as Network General’s offering for half the price, it has delivered a product that outperforms the competition at a considerably lower price.

He cited a recent bake-off held by The Tolly Group, which found that the WildPackets product could handle 1.2Gbps of throughput, outstripping competing products.

Rather than biting at Network General’s ankles, WildPackets has in fact exposed the market leader’s Achilles heel, he said, adding that this was something it intends to continue to do with initiatives such as the possible alliance with NetScout.

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