KEEP ON ALERT FROM AFAR

KEEP ON ALERT FROM AFAR<@VM>Size up your network, select one of these 18 monitoring tools



Remote-monitoring tools require some expertise, but they greatly extend the reach of network technicians and managers

By Barry Nance

Special to GCN

Given the far-flung networks and tight information technology budgets increasingly common today, the availability of network technicians can sometimes seem reminiscent of the old line about cops: There's never one around when you need one. Few organizations can afford to have a skilled technician always available at every location.

Fortunately, a variety of remote-monitoring tools exists to help a technician at a central site be everywhere at once, detecting and correcting problems over the network. The tools can increase network availability and technician productivity, resulting in fewer unplanned visits to remote sites by technicians or network administrators.

Some of the tools listed in this buying guide identify network connectivity and traffic problems, while others focus on the network traffic generated by specific applications. Some help identify the different devices and components on the network, others decode network packets to help a network administrator troubleshoot.

In every case, however, the tools require a good deal of expertise on the part of the network technician or administrator. In a frame relay environment, for example, understanding terms such as latency'the time it takes a packet to travel to or from a remote network segment'and committed information rate'the bandwidth guaranteed by the telephone company, beyond which the communications vendor need only make a best-effort attempt to supply'is a prerequisite.



Remote help

Remote-monitoring software products help network managers, administrators and technicians keep track of network components, diagnose network problems, display a map of the network components, verify that a network is functioning correctly and measure network traffic levels'all from a remote site.

A product might additionally require the presence of a network hardware device, such as an RMON probe.

The accompanying chart lists 18 remote monitoring software products. The most common platform for running the monitoring software is Microsoft Windows NT, but that doesn't mean the entire network must run NT.

Other computers on the monitored network can be running any operating system.

Many of the products also run on various flavors of Unix, while one, Statscout Pty. Ltd.'s Enterprise Network Monitoring Suite, comes with its own operating system. Candle Corp.'s Command Center is so platform-neutral it even runs on MVS.

Most of the products monitor remote networks via RMON probes you install at each remote site. Such a probe collects network statistics, device identification and connectivity information at that site, then transmits the information to the central site when the monitoring tool requests it.

RMON probes typically cost between $1,000 and $3,000, and you generally need one for each remote network segment. Some of the vendors listed in the chart, including 3Com Corp., Bay Networks Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Netscout Systems Inc., manufacture RMON probes in addition to network monitoring software.

The protocols and network topologies a product supports must match the ones your network uses. As the chart makes evident, TCP/IP support is pervasive, as is IPX/SPX support. All of the products work on Ethernet, and most support other types of physical network connectivity.

A key consideration in deciding which product to buy is whether it recognizes only low-level network activity, such as the number of Ethernet packets transmitted in a given time period, or can discern network information flow at higher layers, such as the number of Ethernet packets containing database requests destined for a particular Oracle server.

The chart contains typical pricing for each product, but be aware that each vendor bases the actual price on the size of the network and the number of remote sites, or network segments.


Barry Nance, a computer analyst and consultant for 28 years, writes from Wethersfield, Conn., about information technology. E-mail him at barryn@erols.com.

































































































































































































VendorProductPlatformsWhat it monitorsProtocolsTopologiesPrice
Bay Networks Inc.
Santa Clara, Calif.
408-988-2400
www.baynetworks.com
Optivity Analysis Windows NT RMON and RMON-2 probes IPX/SPX, SNA, TCP/IP, SNMP Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Token Ring, FDDI $5,995
Callisto Software Inc. Wheaton, Ill. 630-682-8200 www.callisto.com Orbiter NT Mobile (dial-up) notebook computers TCP/IP, Exchange Server, Lotus Notes Dial-up (PPP) $5,000 server;
$150
client
Candle Corp.
Santa Monica, Calif.
310-829-5800
www.candle.com
Candle Command Center AIX, Solaris, HP-UX, OS/2, NT, MVS, OS/400 Application network traffic IPX/SPX, SNA,
TCP/IP, Transparent
Network Substrate,
Tabular Data
Language,
Exchange Server
Ethernet,
Fast Ethernet,
Token Ring, FDDI
$15,000
Compuware Corp.
Farmington Hills, Mich.
248-737-7300
www.compuware.com
EcoScope Win9x, NT Application network traffic TCP/IP, SNA,
IPX/SPX, NetBEUI,
AppleTalk, others
Ethernet,
Fast Ethernet,
Token Ring, FDDI
$36,000
Concord Communications Inc.
Marlborough, Mass.
508-460-4646
www.concord.com
Network Health
Traffic Accountant
Solaris,
HP-UX, NT
RMON and RMON-2 probesIPX/SPX, SNA, TCP/IP, SNMP Ethernet,
Fast Ethernet,
Token Ring, FDDI
$10,000
up
Desktalk Systems Inc. Torrance, Calif. 310-323-5998 www.desktalk.com Trend Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, NT RMON and RMON-2 probes IPX/SPX, SNA, TCP/IP, SNMP Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Token Ring, FDDI $25,000
Fluke Corp. Everett, Wash. 425-347-6100 www.fluke.com Network Inspector Win9x, NT Network traffic and devices TCP/IP, IPX/SPX, NetBEUI Ethernet $395
console;
$495 for
100
clients
Hewlett-Packard Co. Palo Alto, Calif. www.hp.com Internet Advisor Win9x Network traffic (decodes packets) 719-531-4400 TCP/IP, SNA, IPX/SPX, NetBEUI, AppleTalk, others Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Token Ring, FDDI $14,000
Infovista Corp. Columbia, Md. 410-997-4470 Infovista SLA Conformance Manager NT, Unix RMON and RMON-2 probes Token Ring, FDDI IPX/SPX, SNA, TCP/IP, SNMP www.infovista.com Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, $19,995
International Network Services, Inc. Sunnyvale, Calif. 650-318-1000 epro.ins.com EnterprisePRO NT RMON and RMON-2 probes IPX/SPX, SNA, TCP/IP, SNMP Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Token Ring, FDDI $10,000
per month
for 1,500
devices
Micromuse Inc. San Francisco 415-538-9090 www.micromuse. com
NetCool NT, Unix, Java RMON and RMON-2 probes IPX/SPX, SNA, TCP/IP, SNMP Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Token Ring, FDDI $20,000
Mission Critical ''Software Inc. Houston 713-548-1700 www.missioncritical. com OnePoint EA Event Manager NT NT domains, shared resources, Exchange Server TCP/IP, IPX/SPX, NetBEUI Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Token Ring, FDDI $995
server;
$50 client
Netscout Systems Inc. Chelmsford, Mass. 508-244-4000 www.netscout.com Netscout Manager Plus NT, Unix RMON and RMON-2 probes IPX/SPX, SNA, TCP/IP, SNMP Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Token Ring, FDDI $8,995
Network Associates Inc. Santa Clara, Calif. 408-988-3832 www.networkgeneral. com
Sniffer Portable Analysis Suite Win9x Network traffic (decodes packets) TCP/IP, SNA, IPX/SPX, NetBEUI, AppleTalk, others Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Token Ring, FDDI $23,050
Novell Inc. Provo, Utah 801-429-3343 www.novell.com LANanalyzer Win3.1, Win95 Network traffic (decodes packets) TCP/IP, SNA, IPX/SPX, NetBEUI, AppleTalk, others Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Token Ring, FDDI $1,495
Quallaby Corp. Woburn, Mass. 781-935-4700 www.quallaby.com Proviso NT, Unix RMON and RMON-2 probes IPX/SPX, SNA, TCP/IP, SNMP Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Token Ring, FDDI $15,000
Statscout Software Proprietary Ltd. New York 212-321-9281 www.statscout.com Enterprise Network Monitoring Suite Intel CPU (includes operating system) Network traffic, connectivity and device errors IPX/SPX, TCP/IP Ethernet $26,408 for 50 devices
and
3,000 ports
3Com Corp. Santa Clara, Calif. 408-764-5000 www.3com.com Transcend Traffix Manager Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, NT RMON and RMON-2 probes IPX/SPX, SNA, TCP/IP, SNMP Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Token Ring, FDDI$7,995

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