Complete Dinner or à la Carte?

Enterprise network management has never been an easy task. Even in a simple dial-up network connection, problems can stem from a variety of locations: a desktop application, communications software, a modem, a Wide Area Network link, the receiving system’s modem, a remote access concentrator, a corporate LAN, a directory server, a backbone switch, a Web server, or a Web application.

Corporations have the option of troubleshooting such problems in two ways. Most rely on network technicians to pull information from individual monitoring tools and deduce the source of a bottleneck. Enterprise management system frameworks provide a central interface to a variety of management products. Each option has strengths and weaknesses. In part one of this report, we will examine the individual monitoring approach and follow it next week with a look at the frameworks.

As soon as a company installs a router or a switch, it needs software to help determine if the device is functioning. Typically, each product comes with a bare bones set of monitoring features that tell an operations technician whether it is up or down. Often, companies purchase additional specialized management applications that may collect performance data, monitor Web server throughput, or download software to users’ desktops.

Vendor focus is strength with these point products. Since they are concentrating on a narrow niches, they often delivery more functionality than suppliers with multiple management products.

The Motley Fool Inc., an Alexandria, Va. online financial services provider, made that deduction. The company has to insure that users experience rapid response times whenever they access its services and started using Sitescope from Freshwater Software, Inc., Boulder, Colo., to gauge performance. “We found the Freshwater product easy-to-install and simple-to-use: it periodically pings our Web server and automatically notifies us of any response time problems,” noted Kevin Book, senior director of technology at The Motley Fool.

On the downside, with today’s ever expanding networks, the number of products a company needs to maintain its systems can quickly multiply and technicians can spend a lot of time bouncing from one to another to identify a problemspot. For instance, the International Standards Organization divided network management chores into five categories: fault management, configuration management, accounting, performance management, and security.

And those are just the network functions. In addition, operations staffs often have to manage a company’s applications, data center servers, desktop systems, and handheld devices. That means additional products are needed to test desktop applications, complete software downloads, examine database performance, and support central help desks.

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