July 2008 | Volume 11/ Number 7
Enterprise Network Management: Seeing is Believing
By: Richard “Zippy” Grigonis
Enterprise networks are far more complex than ever before — often an amalgam of LANs, MANs and WANs — so the term “enterprise network management” has also expanded in scope. It’s really a combination of various sub-disciplines, such as configuration management, fault management (i.e. “troubleshooting”), telecom expense management, performance management and security management. Enterprise network management sits just below “systems management”, which handles higher-level issues of applications and middleware management. Fortunately, there are a huge number of products out there to help you visualize and ultimately understand your network, not to mention troubleshoot it.
For many years enterprises relied on mainstay management packages that have stood the test of time: In particular, IBM (News - Alert)’s Tivoli and HP OpenView, a Hewlett Packard product family of network and systems management products, with optional add-ons from both HP and third parties. (Following HP’s acquisition of Mercury Interactive in July of 2006, HP OpenView was rebranded under the name, HP Software.) As for IBM’s Tivoli, it’s still going strong, with an enormous, dizzying array of management capabilities.
Nortel (News - Alert)’s appropriately-named Enterprise Network Management System (ENMS) enables network administrators to identify and resolve problems and performance bottlenecks before they affect such network services as multicast video and IP telephony. Nortel says that whereas multiple competing systems are necessary to manage a network, Nortel’s single system can handle both wired and wireless, voice and data converged networks.
Nortel’s ENMS can provide a traditional “data-centric view” of a network, a global view of both the network and status of devices on the network. The data-centric view is normally the first point of contact where issues are identified, and acts as a launch point for more detailed views. The data centric view supports all Nortel’s products (domain management) and can be used without the VoIP and converged views for customers who do not have a converged network. This data centric view provides common launch points for other Nortel applications to integrate with ENMS.
The administrator can then move on to a “VoIP view”, which provides a view of the network from a VoIP system perspective. The status of network devices, as well as the VoIP system components and IP Phones, is maintained and carried through to the VoIP view, providing a quick way of identifying device issues. Using the VoIP view, you can see the VoIP system components (call servers, signaling servers, gateways) and the system-associated IP Phones. This view does not include the data infrastructure, so it allows the network operator to quickly distinguish between a VoIP system issue and/or a device or data infrastructure issue — the VoIP view provides a Logical View of the VoIP network or the Service View.
The ENMS “Converged view” mode provides an end-to-end view of the converged network. This view — also called the physical view — includes the VoIP system components, IP Phones, the data infrastructure (switches, routers, subnets), as well as the physical connectivity between the devices. As with the VoIP view, the status monitoring of devices continues to the converged view of the network.
Thus, you now have a complete view of the converged network and the interconnectivity associated with the devices. For example, status alarm devices in error can be quickly identified and the error’s impact determined, such as a router’s failure and how this would affect the VoIP calls within a given subnet.
The ENMS Campus Edition supports up to 500 managed IP interfaces, the Enterprise Edition supports up to 5,000 managed IP interfaces, and the “enterprise upgrade” — Enterprise Upgrade: Enterprise Edition can support up to 10,000 managed IP interfaces.
I Can See It Now
The “visualization” of a network has become increasingly important in all of these products. One tool, IPsonar by Lumeta, is favored by U.S. federal government agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), U.S. intelligence agencies and the Department of Energy, as well as 15 of the 25 largest banks, five of the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies and three of the largest energy companies in the world.
IPsonar is a network assurance solution that scans the network to collect all data related to network topology, address space, leaks and device fingerprints. IPsonar maps every asset on a network (including assets not currently under management) visualizes the connectivity between assets and networks to uncover risk patterns and policy weaknesses, and enables network and security teams to bring unknown assets under management while deploying security technology more effectively to mitigate risk. Network and security managers and executives can accurately visualize what’s on the network, drilling down to analyze potential areas of risk and identify appropriate corrective actions.
Of course, some giant global enterprises may take on some of the characteristics of a service provider, particularly if they find themselves having to distribute something like high-definition video on a large scale to employees, partners or customers. In such cases they might want to look at a more service provider-type of bandwidth management technology, such as Sycamore Network’s SILVX network management and SN 9000 Intelligent Multiservice Switch.
In most cases, larger enterprises will be more concerned with managing thousands of IP phones and IP PBXs. Nectar Services Corp., an IP communications and management services provider and wholly-owned subsidiary of Juma Technology (News - Alert), recently debuted its Enterprise Session Management platform (ESM), which can take hundreds or even thousands of disparate hybrid and IP PBXs found in large multi-location enterprises (based on SIP or H.323), and bring them together into a unified enterprise telephony platform having intelligent call routing, advanced business continuity features and considerable carrier-service cost reductions thanks to “On-Net” calling over the corporate WAN. Its carrier-class routing and session management functionality is controlled via a simple, intuitive web-based application, which yields global visibility and management of all voice traffic from the Nectar (News - Alert) web portal.
Nectar has also unveiled the Nectar Converged Management Platform (Nectar/CMP), which provides a unified view of the systems that support business applications and processes and unifies separate management disciplines spanning voice, data, security, and applications. The Nextar/CMP is tailored and maintained for each client to provide visibility of overall system health, accelerate fault isolation and lower Mean-Time-To-Repair (MTTR). The platform has a dashboard interface and a business process correlation system, 24/7 remote monitoring and alarming, release upgrades, patch management, application topology, event integration, fault isolation analysis services and help desk support.
Aside from getting a visual conception of a network and its components, most administrators are looking for help in troubleshooting things that go wrong on their ever-growing, nearly bewilderingly-complex networks, especially where their voice and/or video packet traffic must make a detour through the outside world.
Many enterprises are implementing proactive network support strategies. According to a recent survey by the Service and Support Professionals Association (SSPA), the largest and most influential association for technology services and support professionals, 42 percent of respondents said their biggest push in 2008 will be proactive support, followed by online communities with 25 percent, and knowledgebases and multi-channel service with 17 percent each.
NextNine (News - Alert)’s Virtual Support Engineer was recently honored as a Spring 2008 “Recognized Innovator” finalist by the SSPA. NextNine’s product enables services organizations to more quickly identify the true failing component at the heart of one or a series of support incidents so a fix or workaround can be crafted. NextNine Service Automation software, thanks to its proactive, preventive abilities, enables organizations to improve the level of support they provide. The Virtual Support Engineer, a key component of the NextNine Service Automation platform, continuously monitors systems, and proactively detects problem symptoms before they cause service disruptions or downtime, thus allowing support engineers to virtually “be there” 24x7.
Everything from phones to security cameras, tilt and zoom (PTZ) CCTV cameras, RFID and access control systems, WiFi Access Points (APs), WiMAX (News - Alert) access equipment, thin clients and even door lock controllers are increasingly becoming IP-based. To accommodate these devices, your LAN may expand into hard-to-wire areas where electrical power is not readily available, or the number of devices may simply increase to the point where there are too few electrical outlets.
Fortunately an increasing number of IP devices can support Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) or “Active Ethernet” wherein DC power is sent along with LAN signals over certain types of Ethernet cabling. This is a particularly attractive solution for Historic buildings and structures sealed because of asbestos.
In 2006, semiconductor maker Microsemi (News - Alert) Corporation acquired PoE equipment vendor PowerDsine, which patented PoE and helped draft the 803.2af standard for the technology. Their new 7000 series of HiPoE Midspan switches delivers up to 30 watts of power, double what previous 802.3af-based systems were capable of. PowerDsine has released four models of its new Midspan switches — one port, four, 16 and 24-port versions. Microsemi Vitesse Semiconductor Corporation, a provider of advanced IC solutions for carrier and enterprise Ethernet networks, also recently announced their first joint reference design for power Gigabit Ethernet switches compatible with the new higher-power IEEE802.3at-draft3.0 Power-over-Ethernet standard.
The reference design, based on Microsemi’s PD69012 chipset and Vitesse’s VSC74xx family of Gigabit Ethernet switches, allows Ethernet OEM/ODM equipment suppliers to use the same printed circuit board to provide both 24-port PoE and non-PoE versions of a Gigabit Ethernet switch platform. The joint reference design supports 30 watts per port, per IEEE802.3at-draft3.0, and is capable of driving up to 36 watts per port. Furthermore, Microsemi’s Dynamic Power Management technology allows customers to use small power supplies for switches that must power both high power and low power devices, a typical situation in enterprise applications involving both VoIP phones and 802.11n WLAN access points.
Microsemi’s Yuval Barnea, Vice President of Systems Business, says, “Our design is a cost-effective way to upgrade a network to support Power-over-Ethernet. We can handle from one to 48 ports and up to a Gigabit per second in bandwidth. We were the first to announce pre-802.3at equipment. IT directors want to treat our devices like any other device on the network. PowerDsine came to us with their PowerView Pro, the latest generation of a secure, web-based SNMPv3-based management application, that supports efficient monitoring and control of network devices. PowerView Pro can do remote power-off/power-on, unit scheduling, UPS power monitoring and web-based monitoring. You can use it at home, in the office, at a remote location, or wherever you like. Of course, it’s the real-time reporting of system status and alerts to the IT manager that is particularly attractive, which is done by SNMP traps that can trigger SMS or even emails to the manager. It also enables him to enable, configure and monitor a series of our Midspans in real-time using a graphical interface. It can activate or deactivate Midspan ports on a daily or weekly schedule for security purposes. It can even recycle power to remote faulty devices, such as an AP in an airport or a wide campus installation. This saves both time and costs.”
So, ironically, with all the talk about grandiose high-level enterprise management systems, ingenious low-level “nitty-gritty” items on the network such as PoE are often just as useful, particularly among Small and Medium Sized Businesses (SMBs).
For example, SEH Technology, the printing and network computing specialist, recently introduced their PS06 Ethernet network interface card to its print server portfolio for HP output devices with EIO ports. This new PS06 Ethernet print server supports printing via either IPv4 or IPv6 in Ethernet networks (including socket, LPR, and IPP printing) and includes high level security features such as several IEEE (News - Alert) 802.1x standard authentication methods and print data encryption during transmission. Compared to its predecessor, SEH’s IC106-FAST-HP-TX interface card, the PS06 considerably speeds up printing via HTTPs encryption. The multiprotocol print server works with all common operating systems, including Windows, Linux, UNIX, Apple (News - Alert), and Novell. The latest ThinPrint print client provides for bandwidth-optimized network printing and ThinPrint SSL decoding. All for a mere US$209.99.
To sum up, you can now view your network pretty from any perspective you desire. Indeed, there are whole families of enterprise network management products out there that can help you securely view, troubleshoot and otherwise manage the “sandbox” where your business-critical applications and data play. IT
The following companies were mentioned in this article:
IBM Tivoli Software (www.ibm.com/tivoli)
SEH Technology (www.seh.de/english/index.htm)
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