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3.3. A Look Ahead

Web-based network management entails the use of the HyperText Transport Protocol (HTTP) and the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) to manage networked entities. It works by embedding a web server in an SNMP-compatible device, along with a CGI engine to convert SNMP-like requests (from a web-based NMS) to actual SNMP operations, and vice versa. Web servers can be embedded into such devices at very low monetary and operating cost.

Figure 3-4 is a simplified diagram of the interaction between a web-based NMS and a managed device. The CGI application bridges the gap between the management application and the SNMP engine. In some cases, the management application can be a collection of Java applets that are downloaded to the web browser and executed on the web-based manager. Current versions of OpenView ship with a web-based GUI.

Figure 3-4

Figure 3-4. Web-based network management

Web-based network management could eliminate, or at least reduce, the need for traditional NMS software. NMS software can be expensive to purchase, set up, and maintain. Most of today's major NMS vendors support only a few popular versions of Unix, and have only recently begun to support Windows 9x/NT/2000, thus limiting your operating-system choices. With a web-based NMS, however, these two concerns are moot. For the most part web-browser technology is free, and Netscape Communications (now AOL Time Warner) supports many flavors of Unix, as well as the Wintel and Apple platforms.

Web-based network management should not be viewed as a panacea, though. It is a good idea, but it will take some time for vendors to embrace this technology and move toward web-integration of their existing products. There is also the issue of standardization, or the lack of it. The Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) consortium addresses this by defining a standard for web-based management. Industry leaders such as Cisco and BMC Software are among the original founders of WBEM. You can learn more about this initiative at the Distributed Management Task Force's web page, http://www.dmtf.org/wbem/.

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