Digital's Polycenter Capacity Planner 3.01, the Personal Edition, is one of a small number of tools that support end-to-end modelling. But the Windows version we looked at is a young product, and it lacks support for key features such as fractional T1-WAN links and WAN-encapsulation options. That said, Polycenter promises to be a viable contender in the network-modelling tools market once it matures.
With Polycenter, you create a baseline configuration of network hardware, clients, and servers using systems from a database. The database contains hardware data from many vendors. You can add new equipment, as well as edit existing equipment. CPUs can be configured down to the disk controller and network-interface-card level. RAM, CPU clock speed, and benchmark performance are also included. Network hardware includes several performance parameters depending on the type of equipment. Digital continues to improve the database; the 3.2 release of Polycenter, due in June in the US, will support a wider variety of network hardware and systems that are not in the 3.01 version.
After the baseline hardware has been defined, you define applications.
Polycenter ships with a small number of predefined applications, including SQL Server, SAP's R/3, and Microsoft Internet Information Server. Additionally, users can create new applications, including timesharing and multitier client/server applications. However, a lot of information is required to accurately define an application, and some of it must be determined through complex testing. We would have liked for the program to support more applications.
After the environment and applications have been defined, the applications are deployed across the environment. This is the least intuitive step in the configuration process. It would have been easier to deploy applications through drag-and-drop capabilities rather than the awkward wizard we were forced to use. According to Digital, the next release of Polycenter will include a better way to deploy applications across an environment.
Once you've deployed the application, you are ready to "solve" the model, as Digital puts it. Polycenter locates the bottlenecks in the environment, and thresholds can be set for any piece of the puzzle. A server can be flagged if its CPU load exceeds 80 per cent, for example. You can then make changes to the environment, rerun the model, and record the effect on bottlenecks. The model can also be saturated, which helps you determine at what point upgrades are necessary.
You can generate several reports and graphs that show response times, throughput, and utilisation for each component. These nicely formatted reports give in-depth performance information about the model.
The Enterprise Edition of Polycenter, more suitable for large sites, is available for Unix or VMS. It does, however, cost $US13,000 more than the Personal Edition, which costs only $US2000.
The Polycenter Capacity Planner Version 4, released in November 1996, is priced at $24,000 (ex tax), and is available for Unix and VMS. No Australian pricing was available for Version 3.01 Personal or Enterprise editions.
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