Make Sure Your Network Management System Is the Right Size

When you're determining your NMS needs, steer between over-complex projects that rely on a heavy dollop of DIY scripting and over-priced systems that can't live up to their promises (or expense).

By Drew Robb | Posted Dec 10, 2010
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You could perhaps attempt to boil an egg with a match or a nuclear reactor. Either way you have the wrong size implement for the job. The same thing can happen in network management. Administrators are told that all sorts of tools are the solution to all their problems. Sometimes this is freeware and at other times it is a heavy-duty suite. In both cases, the same error can be made as with boiling an egg: wrong sizing.

A legion of users, for example, have been attracted to free tools such as Nagios, which has had millions of downloads over the years. Such tools are fine for individuals and small networks, as are many other freeware tools. But they do have their limits, such as challenges in scaling.

"Nagios requires customization through scripting language out-of-the-box," said Matt Bolton, deputy vice president of product management of Quest's network management business. "Other free and open source tools reach their limit when the original implementer leaves, because the person replacing him/her can't easily understand the scripting that was created."

At the other end of the spectrum, high-end tools like HP OverView and IBM Tivoli can come with a six-figure price tag. For network-intensive operations, this is exactly what is needed. But for others, it can be overkill.

"It's rare that an end user would need the complete feature set of solutions that OpenView or Tivoli offers," said Bolton.

He gives the example of auto remediation as one of those things that people pay for but don't use in production.

"The vision of auto remediation makes a lot of sense but it's a feature that never really works no matter what vendor is offering it," said Bolton.

He thinks the problem with larger installations, though, is not individual features. It's the fact that you have to buy the whole suite whether you need all the bells and whistles or not.

"It would be like forcing people to buy a cell phone with unlimited minutes, premium video, international calling, etc.," said Bolton.

Bolton gives the example of a user that bought one of the higher-end packages. The person responsible for the purchase left before it had even been taken out of the box. His replacement felt it was too complicated and would cost even more money to implement, and purchased a smaller and less expensive toolset that was more suited to organizational needs.

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