Network management moves to next level

Network management moves to next level<@VM>Find the performance monitoring tool that has evolved to meet your system's needs

Web tools bring Internet-specific functions to the mix


Network monitoring has gone past the stage of using hardware sniffers to chase down errant packets of data. Dozens of programs exist to not only help measure network performance but to anticipate problems as well.

'Proactive management' is the key phrase in today's networking environments. In a nutshell, this means measuring the performance of all devices and applications on the network, predicting what could go wrong across thousands of nodes, and taking corrective actions before they become necessary.

Many network performance tools began life as basic Simple Network Management Protocol monitoring tools that managed packet behavior and hub, switch or router activity. But the tools listed in the accompanying chart have evolved beyond that.

Some of them work mainly as monitors for small to midsize departmental LANs. Others can predict the likely outcome of a set of problems by engaging in simulation exercises. And still others bring a full range of Web performance monitoring to the plate.

While many of the programs listed are designed to work independently, most also will fill in the blanks left by even the most sophisticated and expensive network management programs. The best of these tools, of course, are those that most closely meet your needs without requiring extensive training or lots of time to use effectively.

Whether you fork over hundreds or thousands of dollars for the software, you should look for certain basic functions in all network performance monitoring programs.

Device mapping. Performance monitoring begins by keeping track of all devices on the network. The software should discover them automatically and map their whereabouts accordingly.

Polling. Performance monitoring also typically involves polling all devices and applications on a network to ascertain their accessibility to users. If a critical application or e-mail server isn't working properly, a notification or alert is sent out informing managers of the problem.

Notification. Most monitoring programs send problem alerts in a variety of ways, including e-mail, beepers, pagers, control monitors and even standard telephones if there's a problem on the network.

Reporting. Depending on whether the software uses mapping, polling or other methods to collect data, it should report its findings in an appropriate format'either graphical, tabular or text form. Sophisticated reporting features distinguish good performance monitors from average ones.

Problem resolution. Rules-based software has flexible parameters for leading you to corrective steps for existing or developing problems with a server, application, device or network connection. Customizable programs allow for automatic problem resolution by the software itself.
Because all performance monitors manage their tasks differently, it's necessary to examine them carefully for the feature sets you need the most.

The Lowdown

  • What is it? Network monitors are software tools that collect statistics on a network's performance, diagnose problems and identify potential trouble spots. Web site performance monitors add Internet functions.

  • Why do I need it? By identifying problems and helping you correct or avoid them, a monitoring tool can help keep your network running at top condition.

  • Is there a point of comparison? There is a wide variety of monitoring tools; if there is a common denominator, it's in reporting. A monitor is only as good as its reporting functions.

  • Price? It depends on the tool you choose and the size of your network. You can pay from several hundred dollars up to as much as $150,000. There is even some freeware available.

  • Must-know info? Network and Web site performance monitors focus on different tasks, such as tracking activities or predicting performance. To optimize your network, you might need to select a combination of tools.

  • For example, Cisco's CiscoWorks2000 is a fairly straightforward standalone package for mapping and monitoring devices on small, Microsoft Windows NT and Win 2000 networks, but is specific to Cisco equipment.

    Neon Software's CyberGauge 3.0 started as an entry-level SNMP monitoring program for small networks, but its developers have added high-level features for monitoring routers, switches and firewalls, with customizable graphs for plotting trends, and the ability to generate e-mail and pager alerts for failed devices or traffic jams.

    Program suites with various customizable components may fit some users' requirements best. BMC Software's Patrol 2000 Suite, Computer Associates' ManageIT and Extreme Networks' ExtremeWare all come with monitoring, traffic analysis and tracking components as well as other advanced features.

    Some performance monitors tend to emphasize specific functions. For example, Entuity's Eye of the Storm 2.5 works by drilling down to the network operating center level to predict network performance. Opnet Technologies' IT DecisionGuru 7.0 is a high-end program designed mainly to simulate network situations by reporting on data from network analyzers and client-server interactions.

    When selecting your software, remember that any single product probably won't achieve everything you want it to. You'll have to shop around to find the program'or combination of programs'that most closely meets your objectives.

    Monitoring Web site performance has become a growth industry for organizations involved in electronic commerce and with highly evolved Web sites. Web monitors perform many of the same tasks as classic network monitors'packet-collection, traffic analysis and server performance measurement'but add Internet-specific functions to the mix.

    Among those functions is real-time monitoring of information about site use and performance with the goal of keeping surfers interested in your Web site.

    Watching the Web

    Web performance monitors approach their tasks differently. Wildpackets' WatchPoint 2.1 provides a real-time picture of all Internet activity on your servers and provides server and activity statistics by using log analysis, response times and network utilization.

    Hewlett-Packard's OpenView VantagePoint Transaction Observer takes a different tack, by collecting and capturing performance data from monitors embedded in the Web site itself. The software adds Hypertext Markup Language code to each site that is to be measured. The code in turn is downloaded as ActiveX or JavaScript data returned from the site visitor's activity.

    J.B. Miles of Pahoa, Hawaii, writes about communications and computers. E-mail him at [email protected].

    CompanyProductDescription and price
    Network Tools

    Agilent Technologies Inc.
    Palo Alto, Calif.

    Manager 7.0

    Enables service-level performance monitoring and management of ATM OC-12 networks; provides real-time network status data; $5,995 up

    Argent Software Inc.
    Farmington, Conn.

    Guardian 5.1A

    Monitors NT, Win 2000 and Linux parameters and applications; can send IP pings and SNMP polling requests across the network; $9,000 for 10 servers

    BMC Software Inc.

    Patrol 2000 Suite

    Suite of network management software that includes Patrol for Diagnostic Management, which automates the detection of system failures and reduces the time between failure and correction;$10,000 up

    Cisco Systems Inc.
    San Jose, Calif.

    Windows 5.0

    Device management software with network mapping and monitoring for small networks of up to 30 Cisco devices; $1,995 up

    Entuity Inc.
    Wakefield, Mass.

    Eye of the
    Storm 2.5

    Predictive network performance monitor with drill-down capabilities; provides detailed network equipment inventories, event detection and reporting; $25,000 up per license

    Extreme Networks Inc.
    Santa Clara, Calif.

    ServiceWatch 1.0

    Part of the ExtremeWare suite, ServiceWatch monitors applications on any vendor's hardware; $2,995 up, depending on number of licenses and hardware operating systems monitored

    Fluke Corp.
    Everett, Wash.

    Inspector 4.0

    Discovers all devices on the network and monitors them for changes or errors; works with Fluke's extensive family of network testing hardware; $995

    Ipswitch Inc.
    Lexington, Mass.

    What's Up
    Gold 5.0

    Monitors servers and IP devices such as switches and routers; provides alerts of network performance problems, including service-level agreements; $695

    MediaHouse Software Inc.
    Hull, Quebec

    ipMonitor 6.0

    Monitors NT and Win 2000 servers for excessive resource consumption, failed NT services and specific event log entries; $695

    Neon Software Inc.
    Lafayette, Calif.

    CyberGauge 3.0

    Monitors and analyzes the throughput of network routers; also determines bandwidth utilization of networked switches and hubs; $295 for five devices, $495 for 10 devices, $695 for 20 devices

    NetPro Computing Inc.
    Scottsdale, Ariz.

    DS Expert 3.0

    Real-time diagnosis of network security glitches through a 32-bit Windows interface; tracks troublesome directory problems; $12 per object

    Network Instruments LLC

    Link Analyst 2.0

    Device-mapping tool with uptime monitor, route analysis inventorying and qualify of service management features; detects network abnormalities and reports on device or route failures; $495 per license

    NTP Software
    Manchester, N.H.

    Sentinel 2000

    System Tracks NT and Win 2000 event log entries, services and performance monitor statistics via IP pings and SNMP polling; monitors the health of network devices; $1,495 per license,$125 per additional workstation license

    Opnet Technologies Inc.

    Decision Guru 7.0

    Simulation software that imports application traces from network analyzers and provides graphical representations of client, network and server interactions; $49,623 per year per five-user license

    Response Networks Inc.
    North Andover, Mass.


    Employs a distributed agent to collect network performance data, analyzes the data and generates a customized report; $50,000 up

    System Management Arts Inc.
    White Plains, N.Y.

    InCharge 3.2

    Connectivity and performance applications suite for root-cause problem analysis; $25,000 up

    Tavve Software Co.
    Morrisville, N.C.


    Self-configuring application provides event correlation, Layer 2 root cause analysis, active query of component status and notification based on user-defined groups; creates its own network topology database; $100 per node

    Teamquest Corp.
    Clear Lake, Iowa

    TeamQuest Lite

    TeamQuest LiteFreeware version of TeamQuest Alert, the company's rules-based performance management software; runs from a single Solaris or NT system and provides snapshots of performance, details or charts of performance over time

    Telemate.Net Software Inc.

    NetSpective 4.7

    Extracts data from network sources; monitors, analyzes and manages employee Internet use and supports a wide variety of network security devices; $3,495 for Workgroup Edition, $5,995 for Enterprise Edition

    Valencia Systems Inc.
    Orlando, Fla.

    Aruba 2.0

    Java-based management and performance reporting software that scales to tens of thousands of network elements; $10,000 up

    Veritas Software Corp.
    Mountain View, Calif.

    NerveCenter 3.6

    Rule-based software for providing root-cause solutions for IP networks; $15,999 per 1,000 nodes

    Vigilant Networks LLC
    Burlington, Mass.

    Big Tangerine 2.0

    Monitors switches, routers, hubs and cables for network congestion in conjunction with LeCroy Corp. testing and measurement hardware; $25,000 up

    Visual Networks Inc.
    Rockville, Md.

    Trinity 2.0

    Provides root-cause analysis of network problems by performing both Layer 2 and Layer 3 discovery and mapping; $80,000 per 1,000 nodes
    Web Tools

    Breakout Technologies Inc.
    Scotch Plains, N.J.

    MonitorIT 2

    Web-based monitoring tool; monitors all network and Web services on any server; monitors Internet, e-mail and database services; $195 for each MonitorIT Server and 15 server or desktop licenses, $99 for each additional 10-server license

    Compuware Corp.
    Farmington Hills, Mich.

    Expert 2.5

    Web and application server monitoring with detailed performance monitoring; Response Time Predictor feature permits network simulations that offer views of how response times vary depending on load, bandwidth and latency parameters; $20,000

    Hewlett-Packard Co.
    Palo Alto, Calif.

    VantagePoint Web

    Web and application server monitoring with detailed performance monitoring; collects and analyzes Web performance data via monitors residing in the pages a Web site visitor requests; $29,995 for first 50 transactions, $14,995 for each additional 50 transactions

    Manage.Com Inc.
    San Jose, Calif.

    FrontLine e.M 2.1

    Server-based monitor for tracking application performance; monitors Web servers and back-end databases; enables load-balancing across servers in enterprise e-business networks; $150,000 up per licenses

    Mercury Interactive Corp.
    Sunnyvale, Calif.

    Topaz 3.0

    Web performance monitoring toolkit designed to provide early warning of network performance degradation by correlating performance data back to the root cause; $2,495 per subscription per month

    Micromuse Inc.
    San Francisco


    Suite of Internet Service Monitors; provides real-time monitoring of network elements for early problem detection and resolution, and service-level management; prices available from vendor

    NetIQ Corp.
    San Jose, Calif.

    Pegasus 3.0

    End-to-end Web monitoring tool that determines whether network components or applications are the root causes of network problems; $25,000 up

    NetScout Systems Inc.
    Westford, Mass.

    Productivity Suite

    Suite of network monitoring software for e-business; includes a performance monitor, traffic monitor and probe (used with NetScout's hardware probe); $24,995 for nGenius Server, Traffic Monitor and Performance Monitor, $19,995 up for the probe

    Netuitive Inc.
    Alpharetta, Ga.

    Netuitive 5.0

    Predictive network monitoring tool designed to identify potential system failures 24 hours before they occur; analyzes and correlates information streams from Internet networks and predicts what might pose performance issues; $100,000 up

    RGE Inc.
    Danville, Ind.

    IPSentry 4.3

    Windows-based monitoring of Internet and intranet; monitors Web servers, CGI's FTP, POP3, SMTP, scripts and all network equipment; $1,595 for Standard package, $7,295 for Enterprise package

    Segue Software Inc.
    Campbell, Calif.

    SilkMonitor 1.0

    Works with Segue's Silk product line to provide monitoring of Web, application and database servers; used with SilkPerformer for load and performance testing and server erformance evaluations; $5,000 up

    Tivoli Systems Inc.
    Vienna, Va.

    Tivoli Web
    Services Manager

    Monitors application availability and performance by measuring
    the time it takes users to perform Web actions; $18,600 up

    Wildpackets Inc.
    Walnut, Calif.

    WatchPoint 2.1

    Server-based Web site monitor; analyzes how site content is being used and how effectively data is being transferred; $1,000 for Small Business Edition, $3,000 for Enterprise Edition


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