Product review: NetworkIT Pro packs enterprise support

Regardless of the size of your enterprise, your network is your business lifeline. Beyond managing network performance, it has become increasingly important to proactively thwart downtime and performance degradation, which could potentially impact your company's bottom line. NetworkIT Pro 1.0, Computer Associates' latest enterprise management tool release, has what it takes to provide scalable, centralised management of your networking infrastructure.

Layered upon CA's Unicenter TNG framework, NetworkIT Pro offers continuous end-to-end monitoring of pathways, performance, and conditions upon which the policy-driven Events Manager can take corrective action.

IT Pro's Enterprise Auto-Discovery feature quickly catalogues your network, offering several options that facilitate building a Common Object Repository model of your existing topology and device properties. Methods include DNS discovery, Address Resolution Protocol Cache (relying on stored router data), and a generic PING sweep.

Flexibility is built into the discovery process through customisable user options, such as capabilities for targeting specific communities, subnets, or device types, as well as scheduling of discovery times. All of these options aim to provide efficient insight with minimal impact on your network performance.

NetworkIT Pro uses the gleaned autodiscovery data to build both physical and logical maps of network connectivity. I found that the easily navigable and configurable viewing options offered me quick and easy access to my available network resources.

NetworkIT Pro can manage switched, Frame Relay, and ATM networks, and offers support for System Network Architecture, or SNA, topology, integrating your mainframe resources into the mix. Additional utilities let me remotely configure my Cisco switches and view a variety of RMON-culled performance metrics and fault statistics.

Running DHCP, I was particularly impressed with the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) Synchronizer. This option facilitates a resynchronisation of IPs to devices in your repository without having to run a rediscovery every day.

Beyond simple autodiscovery, NetworkIT Pro additionally provides continuous, real-time feedback about your network status, performance, and fault conditions. NetworkIT monitors service levels and can send notifications or take remedial action upon encountering a user-defined error condition.

The error conditions extend beyond general network connectivity to any rules-based transaction or process between network resources. NetworkIT can monitor processes and services across Windows NT, Windows 95, and Windows 98, as well as Unix platforms.

In addition, NetworkIT Pro offers a unique management perspective in Business Process Views. I was able to group network resources logically by their business function or physical location, for example. When I created an error condition on the network, not only did the map reflect a problem with the offending device, but the entire business class affected by the error was made equally apparent.

NetworkIT Pro's arsenal of troubleshooting tools include a Response Probe for providing statistics on end-to-end response times and network utilisation; a SuperPing utility for simulating response times in network traffic; Path Doctor, an SNMP node-to-node routing interrogator; and an anti-virus utility.

NetworkIT Pro provides assistance for administrators looking to migrate from IBM's NetView or HP OpenView. Additionally, custom applications are supported without the need for modification. I tested several custom OpenView applications I use regularly, and they performed flawlessly with NetworkIT Pro.

Although the product requires Microsoft Excel for its reporting capabilities, the full battery of performance metrics-based reporting options are comprehensive and provide a real-time look at service levels.

Concerning product flaws, I think NetworkIT Pro could benefit from an optional Web-based interface. Not only is this commonplace in a number of network management competitors, such as IBM's NetView, but it is almost essential for administrators requiring remote access.

Further, although this product is a solid effort and the wizard-driven configuration tools are easy to use, fine-tuning and customisation should not be taken on by novice administrators.

NetworkIT Pro is a full-featured network management tool offering superb administration of network architectures at an affordable price. Whether you are looking to manage a small local network or large heterogeneous computing environment, NetworkIT Pro combines ease of use with in-depth analysis tools to ensure network reliability.

(James Borck is an IS director at Industrial Art & Science, in Connecticut. He may be reached at james.borck@industrialArt.com.)The bottom line: very goodNetworkIT Pro 1.0This set of utilities offers extensive capability and an easy-to-use interface for proactive network management. Add-on options bring it to enterprise standards.

Pros: Flexible; fast, wizard-driven setup and autodiscovery; broad scope of comprehensive features; affordable.

Cons: No Web-based administration interface; requires Microsoft SQL Server 6.5 or later.

Computer Associates, Islandia, New York.; +1 (800) 225-5224; http://www.cai.com.

Price: 133MHz server processor: $US900; 400MHz dual Pentium II server processor: $1989; Add-on options at additional cost.

Platforms: Windows NT Server or Workstation 4.0 (Service Pack 3).v

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