5.2. NMS SuitesWe use the term "suite" to mean a software package that bundles multiple applications into one convenient product. In this section, we discuss NMS software, which is one of the more important pieces of the network-management picture. Without it, the agent software in the previous section is virtually useless. NMS products allow you to have a total network view of your servers, routers, switches, etc. In most cases, this view is a graphical representation of your network, with lots of neat labels and icons. These packages are very configurable and work in almost any network environment. With this freedom, however, often comes a big price tag and a confusing setup process. Some of the products focus more on the network side of management (i.e., devices such as routers, hubs, and switches). Others go a step beyond this and allow you to customize server and workstation agents to integrate nicely into your NMSs. Keep in mind that the bigger packages are for larger, more complicated networks and require extensive training. Be sure to take some time to research the packages before purchasing; if at all possible, get trial versions. The rest of this section lists some of the more common NMS packages.
PlatformsSolaris, HP-UX, Windows NT/2000
ProsGreat mid- to large-business SNMP suite. While it can be complicated, it is manageable with a little help from OpenView support. Has a nice graphical map and event-monitoring system. Can do some historical trend analysis. Price seems right and can be trimmed by obtaining a license for a limited number of managed nodes.
ConsNot many third-party application plug-ins available.
PlatformsSolaris, HP-UX, Windows NT/2000
ProsIf you're a Fortune 500 company looking to implement OpenView on steroids, ITO is your product. It is very user-centered. Maps, events, and more can be displayed or hidden based on a user's profile. The event system is more like a ticket center. A wealth of third-party "smart plug-ins" are available.
ConsPrice can be very high. Made for serious enterprise companies. Not many people can properly implement this without training or outside consulting help.
PlatformsOS/390, Solaris, AIX, Digital UNIX, Windows NT (Intel and Alpha)
ProsA truly distributed network-management solution. It has the ability to detect problems at the source before they affect users.
ConsThis is a heavyweight management system that requires extensive investment and resources to implement and operate.
ProsGreat for small to midsize companies. Contains everything you need to get an NMS up and running in your environment. Price is very reasonable, and it's loaded with features.
ConsNetwork map could use a little work. Doesn't give a realistic representation of your network.
PlatformsMany platforms, including Unix and Windows NT
ProsBMC has developed knowledge bases for managing most aspects of the enterprise, including networks, databases, and servers.
ConsThe knowledge modules are useful, but proprietary. The cost tends to be on the high side. Does not use SNMP as its native language.
PlatformsUnix, Windows NT/2000
ProsCan help you manage your entire IT business -- everything from traditional network management to your Oracle database system.
ConsThis is another heavyweight management system that can take substantial time, resources, and money to implement.
PlatformsSolaris, HP-UX, Windows NT
ProsUses behavior models (finite state machines) to model real-world network situations. NerveCenter is designed to be a standalone polling engine, or to be used in conjunction with OpenView's graphical map. Perl subroutines can be compiled into the polling engine for later use.
ConsTakes more effort to maintain than OpenView, and tends to be more complicated to operate.
ProsRiverSoft, the company behind OpenRiver, boasts that their NMS provides "interventionless network management." They also provide true layer 2 and 3 network discovery. Despite the product's impressive abilities, it is priced very reasonably.
ConsCurrently available only for Solaris (although RiverSoft is planning a Windows NT release).
PlatformsAny Unix platform with an ANSI C compiler and the GTK/GDK toolkit installed
ProsThis free NMS comes with several nice features, such as a mapping tool (not auto discovery) and integration with SQL.
ConsThis project is still in its infancy (but there are many planned features that will make it a robust NMS solution).
PlatformsMost Unix platforms, Windows NT
ProsTkined is a free extensible network management platform. It provides a network map and tools to perform discovery of IP networks. It can also perform management of devices with SNMP and non-SNMP standards (ping, traceroute, etc.). Tcl is used to extend and add functionality to Tkined.
ConsYou must be familiar with Tcl to extend this package.
PlatformsAny platform that supports Java
ProsOpenNMS is an attempt to provide users with a truly open service and network-management product. It is written in Java and is released under the GNU Public License (GPL). It supports network discovery and distributed polling, among other things.
ConsThis project is still in its infancy.
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