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When network performance drops, bogging down applications and connections, the finger often is pointed at the administrator.

But the causes of performance degradation typically lie elsewhere. Media file-sharing, spam relay, viruses and worms all contribute to poor network performance, slowing applications and hurting productivity.

“It’s got nothing to do with network design,” said Bob Quillin, vice president of marketing and product management at Network Physics Inc. “It has to do with network security issues.”

Thirty-eight percent of networks suffer from performance degradation, which puts mission-critical data contained in business applications at risk, according to a study conducted by Vancouver-based vendor Apparent Networks.

Both Network Physics, based in Mountain View, Calif., and Apparent Networks say they have the solution to the pervasive problem of performance degradation. The companies have intelligent network diagnostic technology to help solve network congestion, and both are calling on the channel to help get the technology to market.

Network Physics’ NetSensory technology performs assessments to gather real-time and historical information about performance. Appliances loaded with the NetSensory operating system help midsized companies and enterprises speed application response time and pinpoint security problems anywhere in their networks, company executives say.

Apparent Networks’ AppareNet software operates on live networks to measure bandwidth and determine where congestion is occurring. Apparent’s agent-free software sends signals into the network, traveling along the same routes as applications do, to collect the information.

“It’s a totally different approach,” said Chris Sterbenc, the company’s vice president of partner programs. “It’s kind of like sonar.”

Apparent Networks and Network Physics have been around for a handful of years, selling directly to midsized organizations and enterprises. In recent months, they started recruiting VARs and integrators after concluding that they need the channel’s help to reach a broader customer base. Both have launched formal channel programs in recent weeks.

Executives at both companies believe the timing couldn’t be better, as assaults on IT networks multiply and channel partners look for tools to help their customers fend off the attacks.

Click here for a column about winning the bandwidth battle through the use of mesh networking.

Vincent Lui, senior research analyst at International Data Corp., based in Framingham, Mass., said the market for network management and monitoring topped $1.8 billion last year and is growing moderately. Lui didn’t have market projects for this and following years because he is still working them out.

Apparent Networks is positioning AppareNet as a predeployment assessment tool. Before embarking on network-taxing implementations, such as VOIP (voice over IP), organizations should conduct a comprehensive assessment of the networks to resolve congestion issues that might complicate the deployment, Sterbenc said.

“The explosive growth area is going to be the VOIP side. I think that market is finally arriving,” Sterbenc said. He added that opportunity remains in the traditional IP space as well, but the growth there is slower.

Analyst company Gartner Group cautions that 75 percent of enterprises fail to perform preimplementation analyses of their IP infrastructures, which prevents them from achieving fully successful VOIP implementations.

Network Physics is looking for networking VARs and integrators with experience in markets such as health care, manufacturing and education. “These VARS typically have sold networking gear and applications to those clients,” said Scott Safe, the company’s director of channel programs.

Network Physics has identified strong demand for its technology, and the only inhibitor to meeting that demand has been a lack of channel coverage, he said.

“This is difficult technology problem to solve. The initial reaction we get is skeptical because of the difficulty of the problem,” Safe said. But once potential partners and customers see NetSensory in action, they realize its ease of installation and its potential for return on investment, he said.

Derek Welch, vice president at Atlanta-based Systems & Solutions Inc., is one of 30 partners who have already signed up for the Network Physics channel program. Systems & Solutions customers, ranging in size from 250 users to more than 100,000, have found great value in the Network Physics technology, he said.

“It’s really a great tool that gives you a wonderful view of what’s happening on your network,” Welch said. “Instead of going for an X-ray, it’s kind of like getting the X-ray machine.”

Network Physics’ channel program includes technical training and certification delivered through the company’s NetSensory University, demand generation, co-branded marketing and a customer Web seminar series.

Apparent Networks’ Sterbenc said his company sees a lot of opportunity for its software.
“There’s a lot of pent-up demand, a lot of inbound inquiries,” he said.

The company is looking for a core of highly qualified partners with regional coverage, no more than 20. Recruiting targets include partners of such companies as Cisco Systems Inc., Avaya Inc. and Veritas Software Corp., Sterbenc said.

Apparent Networks has a three-level partner program. Depending on their level, partners get discounts on AppareNet Pro Plus, technical training and customer support, as well as access to the company’s partner Web portal and marketing materials.

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