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Selecting a Network Management Solution
By Mahesh Rathod

The market is flooded with Network Management Solutions and selecting the most suitable one can be tricky. But here are a few guidelines to follow and some features to look out for

To keep up with the changing business needs from networks, and to help organizations in managing their increasingly complex and critical network systems, automation of network management has become a must

Computers, networks and the Internet are three things taken for granted in the world of business. In fact, more business is transacted over networks today and companies have become entirely dependent on their heterogeneous network for business continuity. But the same driving forces that make networks so useful for business the Internet, e-commerce applications; the convergence of data, voice, and video are also making networks more complex and hence, difficult to manage. Automation of network management is imperative if networks are to keep up with changing business requirements, and it can help organizations manage their increasingly complex and critical network systems. This automation is done using a Network Management Solution (NMS).

SELECTION CRITERIA

There are a plethora of NMS solutions available from various vendors and each one offers various features. Here are some features to look out for while considering an NMS:

  • Scalability - The solution should be scalable and should be able to address current/future needs.
  • Graphical user interface - A user interface which can be started from anywhere and viewed from anywhere.
  • Centralized control - Organizations want to quickly find and fix problems and respond to changes rapidly from a central location
  • Standards based - Solution should support maximum number of standards based technologies.
  • Distributed scalable architecture - One that can manage complexity of networks.
  • Flexibility - Easy customization as per user needs.

SOLUTION

An NMS can resolve many network-related problems. Here are a few instances.

Security: As networks get more complicated, security becomes a critical issue. An NMS can protect your network from security breaches, hacker attacks and corporate espionage.

Network device failure: NMS can proactively monitor networks links and send notifications for link failures and threshold violations.

Resource Allocation: Allocation of resources to meet fluctuations in needs, prioritising the network, application and traffic on a dynamic basis.

Capacity Planning: NMS link utilization reports help in capacity planning of environmental parameters like CPU utilization for network devices like routers, switches.

Health Monitor: NMS displays information about the status of a device, including buffers, CPU load, memory available, and protocols and interfaces being used.

Heterogeneity breeds complexity: Rapidly growing networks with heterogeneous platforms create issues of interoperability and connectivity. Deploying an NMS to manage this is a big challenge.

Knowledge of the network: NMS helps in tracking network elements quickly and efficiently. It can track new elements that are added every now and then in the network.

Measuring the Link availability: NMS generates link availability reports, which help in identifying bottlenecks, and in network planning.

Offline Network Analysis: NMS helps in collecting historical network data for offline analysis of performance trends and traffic patterns.

Lower WAN costs: NMS enables WAN users to be segmented into workgroups, which also aids in security. By limiting traffic to business-related applications and to authorized users, you'll reduce bandwidth usage and save on expensive leased lines.

NMS PRODUCTS

Now that you have an overall picture of NMS, lets talk about some of the players or vendors in this segment.

Enterasys

Enterasys offers an NMS solution called Netsight. This product basically helps in managing the Enterasys range of networking products. In addition, Enterasys also promotes Spectrum, the multi-vendor NMS from Aprisma. One feature of the Enterasys product includes the ability to identify fault areas in the network and thereby report to the network manager through an alarm. The other features include:

  • Virtual workgroups based on business demands
  • Decision-enabled connectivity for smarter management
  • Ease of network administration
  • 802.1Q standards-based management

Computer Associates

Unicenter TNG is Computer Associates' family of integrated infrastructure management solutions, and it ensures the health and performance of all aspects of eBusiness infrastructure, including systems, networks, databases, Web resources, applications, and end-user devices. Through the use of a flexible and enhanced architecture and leading-edge technology such as advanced intelligence and visualization, Unicenter delivers Internet-caliber scalability and administration in a modular, easy-to-use design that grows with your needs across this increasingly heterogeneous infrastructure.

Anand Sankaran, Head-Sales and Marketing, Wipro Infotech says, "CA's NMS provides powerful control of core IT resources that make or break your business responsiveness. These products consist of modular network and systems management solutions that deploy quickly and incorporate changing technologies from wireless to Voice-over-IP (VoIP)".

Cisco Systems

Cisco provides solutions that are mainly targeted at the wide-area and local-area operations of enterprise networks. The three major solutions are:

LAN Management Solution: Provides operationally focused applications for configuration, fault monitoring, and troubleshooting campus networks. It enables network administrators to effectively manage their LAN and campus networks.

Routed WAN Management Solution: Provides a collection of powerful enterprise management applications to configure, administer, monitor, and troubleshoot routed wide-area networks, thereby dramatically reducing their complexity.

The VPN/Security Management Solution: These solutions manage and monitor service-level agreements, optimizes VPN performance and security administration.

The CiscoWorks2000 IP Telephony Management Solution is a comprehensive suite of management applications that ensure the readiness and manageability of converged networks.

Hewlett Packard

HP's OpenView provides a complete portfolio of management solutions that help IT staff take full control of distributed IT resources across the enterprise. These solutions include:

Network management solutions that help manage networks by providing a clear view of its components, including hardware, applications, and databases.

Systems management solutions that effectively monitor and control the entire computing environment, including hardware and systems management .

Availability management solutions that help maximize system performance by providing tools for measuring both real-time and historical system performance.

Performance management solutions that monitor the performance of critical client/server applications from a user perspective, and allow managers to compare service level objectives with actual application performance.

Storage management solutions that offer automatic device discovery, topology maps, device management, storage virtualization, storage capacity management, performance monitoring and data protection.

IBM Tivoli

IBM's Tivoli network management solution helps you in keeping your network devices (routers, hubs, bridges, PCs, and workstations) up and running. One component of this NMS is Netview.

NetView displays network topologies, discovers TCP/IP networks, correlates and manages events and SNMP traps, monitors network health, and gathers performance data. Tivoli NetView meets the needs of managers of large networks by providing the scalability and flexibility to manage mission-critical environments.

Tivoli NetView allows network administrators to centralize the management of network hardware devices and servers by gathering key network information

Novell ZENworks

The ZENworks product line balances the need to control user and IT staff efficiencies, resources, and management costs with the need to confidently extend and personalize business processes to employees, customers and partners. Directory-enabled and policy-based, ZENworks products provide high levels of automation, personalization, security and control for an end-to-end management solution that enhances users' quality of experience in an increasingly competitive and opportunistic economy.

Nortel Networks

Nortel offers an NMS suite called Preside. Preside's domain-specific network and service management solutions are standards-based, scalable and carrier-grade, enabling efficient, optimized networks. Some of the features include:

Improved return on technology: Preside enables efficient, optimized networks through scalable, carrier-grade, and standards-based solutions

Faster time to service: Preside helps overcome the complex network obstacles that keep you from getting new services to market quickly.

Convergent Communications

The Convergent Network Management Center (CNMC) is a remote network management service available to corporates. This is a total managed service that has been designed to provide proactive monitoring and ongoing network analysis for corporate networks over the Internet. Convergent is offering a twenty-four hour a day, seven days a week, proactive network management service from its CNMC. Services include:

  • Network monitoring
  • Network analysis
  • Identify Network Performance Issues
  • Design Network Performance Enhancements
  • Implement Network Performance Enhancements

Some of the other companies offering remote network management services include Bangalore Labs, HCL Comnet and WiproNet.

Mahesh Rathod can be reached at rathodmp@hotmail.com

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