HPE Intelligent Management Center Review

Using the Application Monitor add-on allows you to go deep into server, platform and application topologies,

What is most valuable?

It is amongst the most versatile NMSs on the market. It provides better device management for even some of their competitors' devices than their competitors' management software (particularly Cisco).

The ability for IMC to interrogate a network of any size (even thousands of network devices) in almost no time and quickly reveal the most intimate details and relationships is unmatched in the market. Coupled with this is HPE's constant improvement of the product with even minor releases offering significant enhancements.

Using the Application Monitor add-on allows you to go deep into server, platform and even application topologies, allowing this one tool to provide a complete overview of the health state of very broad and complex environments.

This is far and away the best tool of this type I have ever used.

How has it helped my organization?

I make a habit of installing IMC as the first step when I start analysing networks for issues and improvements. What I gain from 24 hours of analysis with IMC usually exceeds what I can derive from hundreds of pages of documentation. My end-state for an IMC deployment is that IT becomes the documentation for the environment, including tracking every historical change and issue that occurs from installation onward.

What needs improvement?

Documentation is pretty weak. HPE have an excellent They have a Youtube channel that provides some excellent guidance but the content is sporadically released (there have only been 2 videos in the last year) and unstructured (it seems to follow whatever the author wants to present rather than some structured curriculum). I think they could invest in building a more consistent training library for this product.

Additionally, it isn’t very intuitive to use. I understand why as they have had to make most elements as generic as possible in order to support as many equipment vendors as they can. This has the unfortunate flow-on effect of often being fairly difficult to configure specific elements; this could be easily improved through better documentation and design examples. These challenges make mastering IMC a fairly steep learning curve.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have used it for six years.

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

Deployment in an enterprise environment - where you are using a separate SQL Server rather than SQL Express - can be somewhat counter-intuitive and requires a certain knowledge of SQL to do it right. IMC does not support integrated user accounts or dynamic SQL ports - two features that Microsoft recommends using. Based on my experience, I would suggest a SQL Server dedicated to IMC (virtual is fine).

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

When managing over 500 devices, you really need a bare-metal install rather than virtualized, or you can get terrible performance. This is documented but in a fairly vague location. Once moved to bare metal, even 5000+ devices caused little issue.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I have not encountered any scalability issues. I have deployed IMC for thousands of devices and spoken to people managing tens of thousands of devices. The scale-out ability of IMC - where you can split functions onto different, or even multiple, servers - means there are few real limits in an enterprise deployment, as long as you understand how to do it properly.

How are customer service and technical support?

Customer Service:

One of the key benefits of IMC is that they are aggressively developing this product. They are very open to feature requests with any that make sense for multiple customers making their way into near-future releases.

Technical Support:

technical support is the one area where I have to rate HPE fairly poorly. Whilst I haven't seen many issues with IMC, when we have encountered them (particularly around inconsistencies in the topology views), getting them fixed can be a cumbersome process.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I have used other solutions in the past, but none have compared to the versatility of IMC.

How was the initial setup?

I would say initial setup was medium, between straightforward and complex. The challenge, as with any NMS, is ensuring your devices are in a state to be managed (i.e., consistent SNMP communities, passwords, etc.). On the plus side, since many environments use default credentials, once all devices are ingested, creating scripts to establish high security (e.g., SNMPv3, SSH/SSL only) is a breeze.

What about the implementation team?

An in-house team implemented it.

What was our ROI?

It is difficult to put a dollar value on ROI, but in the last instance I would say that IMC allowed us to free up about two FTEs through the reduction in operational costs of the network.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

For a 50k user environment - ~1200 switches across 10 sites - we probably spent around $100k getting IMC fully perfected. The ongoing cost of maintenance is negligible.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

As we were deploying a predominantly HPE network, we didn't really need to consider other offerings.

What other advice do I have?

Out-of-the-box IMC is pretty good, but to really make it work for your organization, you need to invest the time to tailor it to your specific requirements. If you don't have someone with reasonable IMC experience in-house, consider a consultant to analyse your needs and assist in the overall deployment.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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