The blurred lines of network monitoring
When it makes sense to pay more for management tools
Clear Choice Tests By Barry Nance, Network World, 02/12/07

Why would a company of any size spend $50,000, $100,000 or more on HP's Network Node Manager, Alcatel-Lucent's VitalSuite, CA's eHealth or Spectrum, IBM's (formerly Micromuse's) NetCool, Argent's Guardian or other products if the entry-level products we tested are so capable? There are a few reasons.

* Sophistication: Their complexity lets the expensive tools monitor networks more accurately. For instance, you can avoid more false alarms with the expensive products, because you can set sophisticated thresholds: "Alert me if Link X's utilization exceeds 5% on Saturdays and Sundays, 20% after 8 p.m. during the week, 50% during weekdays or 75% at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays." The expensive products are also usually quite good at performing root-cause analysis.

*Scalability: The expensive products typically have a distributed, n-tier architecture that helps them scale upward to handle 100,000 or more network nodes.

*Integration: The expensive tools integrate well with third-party software and even with each other. For instance, both CA's eHealth and Spectrum products integrate with CA's network documentation tool, netViz.

* Specific device support: Understanding the Babel of languages emitted by a widely heterogeneous collection of network devices is another fort of the expensive tools. CA's eHealth, for instance, is an absolute polyglot that ships with more than 1,000 Management Information Bases.

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