Getting to the root of net management problems

By Denise Dubie, Network World |  Networking

Getting to the bottom of a network problem has never been easy, but new and existing products that perform root-cause analysis can ease the pain.

At least that's the conclusion of a new report recently released by Enterprise Management Associations (EMA). The report says vendors are finally offering users root-cause analysis products that can be deployed quickly and can provide, on average, 70% accuracy when dissecting network problems.

The products have intelligence and eliminate the need for human intervention in some cases, says Dennis Drogseth, a director with EMA.

While root-cause analysis -- the ability to isolate specific points of failure -- may be gaining some steam, it is hardly new.

Vendors -- such as Aprisma -- claim their products have performed some type of root-cause analysis for years. Root-cause technology can pinpoint a problem on the network, a port on a device and, in some instances, perform automated healing tasks.

"The most common complaints about root cause have been that the products take a long time to deploy and that things change so much it's hard to stay current," Drogseth says. Although he says users should still be suspect of vendor claims of "out-of-the-box" implementations, EMA's findings show that implementations that once took from six to nine months have been whittled down to weeks and, in some cases, days.

Root-cause products remain costly -- with prices ranging from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the technology's benefits can far outweigh any upfront costs.

With most large organizations facing IT staff shortages, technology that can automate network performance monitoring can handle low-level network monitoring, freeing skilled staff members for higher-level network troubleshooting and firefighting.

Start-ups such as Oxydian, Magnum Technologies and Evidian offer automated event-correlation and self-configuring products intended to boost network management with root-cause analysis features. Big-name competitors such as Tivoli, Computer Associates, BMC Software and Hewlett-Packard have also upgraded their offerings to better support root-cause features.

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