Tracking the Names of Nodes

If your network management accounts for less than a thousand IP addresses, you don’t need EDGE IP from Threshold Networks. But if your network includes thousands of IP addresses, you’ll want to take a look at this all-in-one IP management tool.

Founded in 1999, Threshold networks is attempting to leverage proprietary technology and two partnershipsFoundry Networks and HCL Technologiesinto obtaining a unique niche in the data center management market.

The Plan
Threshold executives asked independent research firm, Keynote Systems, to determine what causes the most IP address problems. Keynote reported that 3.24 percent of errors occurred due to broken links, 29 percent of errors were caused by DNS problems, and 48.5 percent of errors were caused by connections timing out.

Threshold networks estimates that time-out errors could be redily resolved by network upgrades, like improved load balancing and content delivery systems. But the majority of DNS problems are created by errors in record keeping.The only way to correct this is the change the way network admins keep DNS records.

Marc Goodman, Threshold vice president of marketing, said that in many organizations, an engineer installing a desktop computer will write the computer’s IP address on a piece of paper, and then type in the IP later. “Imagine! Traditional IP address tracking employspaper,” Goodman said. “Enter the EDGE IP.”

Simple GUI
The EDGE IP product uses a GUI to make it easier to manage massive numbers of IPs. The product also updates an IP database as changes are made. By creating a central record-keeping system for IP addresses, domain names and devices, the EDGE IP system replaces a paper trail, producing large and immediate savings by enhancing efficiency. But, perhaps the greatest benefits are derrived from EDGE IP’s simplest features.

The ability to turn services and the firewalls on and off at the simplest possible interface help reminds administrators to disable services they don’t need. Services controlled by EDGE IP include SSH, DHCP, DNS, NTP, Telnet, FTP, and ICMP.

In a similar vein, EDGE IP includes a subnet calculator that automatically calculates the number of hosts and subnet masks that are available on a specific address class and number of subnet bits. Once the subnet addresses are chosen, EDGE IP also automates the process of assigning the addresses.

EDGE IP software also prevents DNS errors by not allowing administrators to enter non-existent addresses into the databasethat is, the program does not allow an admin to enter a number larger than 255.

Advanced Features
The software tracks all IPs, and makes it easier to find IPs that are not being used. If your organization occasionally loses IPs that were once assigned to devices no longer connected to your network, this feature will be useful to you in terms of IP address conservation.

Additionally, since the software tracks current network configuration only, it can show network administrators if an intruder is attempting to exploit certain DNS vulnerabilities.

The software automates the process of linking IP addresses with MAC addresses by querying the device and automatically entering its MAC address, saving time, which of course also saves money.

Note that DHCP addresses are listed in red, to remind administrators that they will expire. “This is the only interface we know of that shows both DHCP and DNS addresses on one convenient screen,” said Goodman.

Other features include the ability to create a custom template to automate IP provisioning and policy-based IP provisioning to make it easier to build subnetslike support.isp.comon your network. Finally, the device enables brower-based remote network management over a secure connection.

It all works together through an integreated SQL database that automatically updates and maintains records, and is designed to eliminate the need for a dedicated database administrator.

Threshold Networks estimates the Return on Investment on its EDGE IP this way:

  • It takes at least 15 minutes to manually assign an IP address. For an average network of 10,000 nodes, changing the address schema can take 2500 man-hours. This represents approximately $116,250 in labor costs based on industry standards. Additional troubleshooting costs for this network can average 10 percent, or 1000 IP address issues referred to the help desk each year.
  • The industry statistics on the manual rate of error for entering data is 3 percent. For 10,000 IP addresses entered, 300 will have undetected errorseach capable of bringing down workstations or portions of the network.

Threshold Networks provides a handy ROI Analyzer. We put it to work analyzing a network of 10,000 nodes. The analyzer calculates that a network paying its admins $50 per hour would save $79,583 in its first year of use. A network utilizing only 1000 IP addresses with admins earning $25 per hour, would save $3,979 in its first year.

Of course, Threshold’s ROI Analyzer assumes that all installations are performed flawlessly the first time … so savings could be even greater than calculated.

You’ll need to evaluate the benefits of this product according to the design of your own network. For smaller networks, upgrading to a Windows 2000 Server could provide your ISP with many of the benefits Threshold provides.

Pricing and Availability
EDGE IP is available now. The price is $4,995 plus $3 per node for a 1,000 node network, bulk per-node pricing is also available for larger networks.

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