Key network management

Of the myriad of OpenView modules offered by HP, Network Node Manager is the key monitoring and managing component.

It watches over devices, servers and applications, while other OpenView modules provide analysis services, produce additional reports and monitor specific environments, such as storage area networks. Network Node Manager earned top honours in our test of more expensive midrange tools by accurately discovering our network, tracking device status, graphically displaying the network, alerting us to problems, automatically fixing problems, gathering statistics and processing incoming SNMP alerts from other monitoring products. Its discovery feature took note of not only network devices, applications and servers but also virtual network services, such as VPNs.

The software uses Management Information Base (MIB) data from several sources, including routers, switches, bridges and repeaters, to reset devices or inquire about their health. It captures some Layer 2 data, such as connections and node addresses, but for the most part it maps easier-to-relate-to Layer 3 details. The impressive list of predefined MIBs includes use and error percentages, total packets by category, retransmits, Cisco memory use and full-duplex utilisation percentage.

Network Node Manager collects network health data, stores it in a relational database, analyses the stored device status and event data, and reports results in useful charts and graphs. The system's root-cause problem analysis, dubbed Advanced Intelligent Diagnosis for Networks, was especially helpful for zeroing in on a specific device that was causing an outage or performance problem.

When we substantially increased traffic or disconnected WAN links, its path-analysis capability was similarly helpful in pinpointing problems and performance degradations involving network pathways and linkages.

Its automatic baseline feature took just a day to become familiar with our network. It set alarm thresholds by analysing collected device status and event data, thus giving it the ability to more realistically detect exceptions, faults and errors. After Network Node Manager created a baseline for our network, we manually added a few of our own thresholds. The software generated prompt and highly informational alarms, via pager or email, to notify us when the thresholds were exceeded.

Network Node Manager has a distributed architecture that scales well to handle larger and more complex network environments. It even monitors itself to make sure it's running normally. There are native Windows and Web-based versions of its user interface.

OpenView Operations Manager integrates with it to provide a central console for event management, performance monitoring and automated alert processing. OpenView Operations Manager has a high-level Visual Basic Script like language for customers who want to tailor its processing.

The predesigned reports from HP highlighted items such as performance, alarms, availability and inventory trends. Many reports contrasted current and historical data, which helped us spot emerging problems, while other reports showed network utilisation, top talkers and listeners, and inbound and outbound errors.

A Ping Response Time and Ping Retry report showed response times and the number of retries, to help measure latency across our network. The RMON Segment Utilization report revealed network bandwidth use, and a Frame Relay report tracked congestion rates to show bottlenecks. Reports also showed summary and detailed device availability, device inventory data, alarm histories and multiple-device reboot events.

OpenView Internet Services tracks Web-based transaction services. We used it to monitor e-commerce transactions and SOAP-based Web services transactions. For each website, it noted availability and response-time details, and Internet Services alerted us when the service-level agreement (SLA) parameters we set up were exceeded.

To fix problems automatically, we could tell the module to execute a command in response to an alert. OpenView Internet Services has a productive dashboard metaphor user interface with tree-based navigation, SLA health indicators and a helpful troubleshooting and analysis tool.