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Proactive Computer Monitoring - History

Now that it's proven to be a good idea, everyone wants to take credit for it
So where were these other proactive monitoring "Visionaries" in 1978?

Remote Computer Monitoring Genesis

Leader or Spectator?

In 1980 I became the Project Manager for an initiative that I had dreamed up a few years earlier and couldn't get my former Employer interested in - Remote Diagnostics. In the 21st Century, remotely monitoring and fixing computer systems is a no-brainer. Not so in the late 1970's. Common wisdom at the time was that Customers would not stand for "electronic intrusions" into their domain and that even if they would, fixing problems required the on site presence of a highly skilled, well paid Field Engineer wearing a 3 piece suit. It was with a fair amount of risk to my career and future employment that I flew against the wind trying to obtain even meager funding for this project. Suffice it to say that many Management dinosaurs of the day were not exactly supportive of radical, new concepts. The last thing they wanted was some thirty-something Engineer coming along to change the way that they had been doing things for decades.

Of course time stands still for no man or tunnel-visioned Manager and the rest is history. I spent the 1980s building "Remote Diagnostic Centers" at my next two jobs. By the late '80s, remotely diagnosing and fixing computers had become a well established and cost effective methodology that was pretty much globally accepted by customers and senior Field Engineering management alike.

It seems clunky now but at the time, 300 baud accoustic couplers were the norm and 1200 baud modems like the one pictured were blazingly fast (and expensive!). There was no Internet and Ethernet had just been invented. Networks were mostly point-to-point. Commercial UNIX, DNS and e-mail wouldn't come along for years to come. Disk drives were still a new technology and a 100 meg drive was the size of a washing machine. Phone service was still pretty bad in Europe and even worse in Asia so maintaining a connection at even 1200 baud was iffy. But even 300 baud was faster (and cheaper) than having to pack for a week and fly overseas! Notice the VT100 terminal I'm using which was a rare luxury that very few of us had on our desks back then. I had some very envious colleagues.

In 1990, I started Easyrider LAN Pro. My first project was to build a NOC using a brand new product called SunNet Manager. At the time, there were maybe a dozen people in the World who even knew how to spell SNMP. It took me perhaps 3 nanoseconds to realize that this technology was the wave of the future and that I needed to become an expert at it. Several NOCs later and in the mid 1990s, along came agent based technology and the much more sophisticated and comprehensive monitoring products that are in use today. It's now 2004 and I have spent the better part of the past 25 years of my life inventing, evangelizing, architecting, improving and managing remote computer systems monitoring and administration as a line of business.

So when someone who's in their 30s or 40's tells you that they are an "expert" with remote monitoring or if a company that was founded in the mid 1990s claims to be "leaders" in proactive monitoring, take this into consideration, ok?

Were other people working to figure out how to make remote diagnostics a reality at the same time that I was trying to get my project off the ground in 1978? I'm sure there were. But most of the latter day proactive 7x24x365 monitoring "leaders", "experts" and "visionaries" we're hearing from today were still in diapers at the time. And if they're so great, how come a lot of our "competitors" regularly visit our web site to see what new innovations we've come up with? Right Shawn?


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