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09.07.05


Network Management And Monitoring Software

By Bruce Warner

Many products on the market today provide analytical information to those who are responsible for the management of networked systems or what the users of those systems commonly call "The Network".

The discussion below clarifies the general use of the terms Management and Monitoring, outlines the broad product categories, discusses the costs of poor system performance and describes the specific monitoring functionality of network management software.

Monitoring and Management

Many of these product types tend to be described as Network Monitors, which is a very generic description. Monitoring is one of those terms that can get confusing as many products are positioned under this broad category. And, without a doubt these products monitor, although they may have very specific functionality. It is important to get past the Network Monitor terminology and understand what a product really monitors or analyzes.

The Management aspect of these products comes from statistical reporting and event notification that is triggered by the monitoring. This is sometimes referred to as fault management. Statistical reports can be generated from continuous data collection to baseline the network, client and server. This reporting can be used to be proactive in providing adequate resource for the monitored system. Event notification alerts administrative users to high or low thresholds above a baseline or the existence of adverse conditions.

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Hardware components need to be configured and software agents will need to be installed. The sophistication of the agents and the placement can require detailed knowledge of client, server and network architecture. For example, understanding application and user utilization of network bandwidth requires tapping into the wire and capturing packets at strategic points on the network.

Broad Product Categories

No one tool will satisfy all needs. The reason is fairly straight forward, as functionality dictates the architecture. Tools needed for troubleshooting may require passive architectures, where reporting and monitoring can be quite active. Some products can sample information and others may need to capture all of the data. Other features that include expert analysis for troubleshooting or security may require different development skills than those needed for server monitoring. Also, the user console design is dependent on the functionality.

The categories described are general in nature and can have crossover functionality in a number of products.

Some Examples:


Enterprise Management - Complete solutions for the enterprise, with integrated network & system management, database management, application management. Service Level Management is also a component that measures actual quality of service to agreed targets. It is not unusual for these products to be comprised of modules and be very encompassing including features such as Job Scheduling. Many older Enterprise products can be very complicated to use and configure. Newer products with more modern architecture will still require days to configure.

Network and System Monitoring - Enhanced commercial network & system monitoring tools. This user might be a NOC (Network Operations Center) wanting to manage Network and Servers. The functionality can be very similar to the Enterprise management.

Network Traffic Analysis & Performance Monitoring - Traffic flows through and between critical network devices, utilization statistics; performance monitoring of network traffic.

Application Monitoring - monitor application behavior and performance. Is it the application, network, client or server? It also can get very specific focusing on specific databases or e-mail systems.

Device Monitoring - Record and view activities of Servers and Devices in a network environment. Can be as simple as up or down.

Security Monitoring - Security monitoring of network, workstations and servers. Generally any product that is used to protect or audit threats.

Web Monitoring - Web monitoring and web analyzing tools.

Protocol Analyzers and Packet Capture Tools - Packet capture tools, network sniffers and packet monitors.

All these tools have the same objective - keep systems operating efficiently and if not, get to the root cause of the problem and resolve the problem so systems run efficiently.

Cost of Poor System Performance

Ever call a company for information only to be told they can't help you because the system is slow or down. What is the cost?

Without tools those responsible for these systems need to use very labor-intensive methods to root out problems. In some cases without some sort of tool the root cause of the problem would be impossible to discover. The proper tools can provide a substantial reduction in costs. The following graph illustrates just one of the costs, user down time or response time. But there can be many costs when performance issues arise, such as lost or unhappy customers that translate into lost sales or the lost time Network Engineers spend to resolve problems.

Read the Rest of the Article.


About the Author:
Bruce Warner is the owner of Operative Software Products www.operativesoft.com. He has over 20 years experience in the computer field, primarily providing software solutions for managing enterprise systems. Operative Software Products operates in the United States and Canada and markets software that builds, tests, diagnoses and operates the IT infrastructure.

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