Head in the clouds

Why didn't somebody think of this before?

Packet Design Inc., the technology licensing/spinoff company founded two years ago by husband-and-wife serial entrepreneurs Judy Estrin and Bill Carrico, this week unveiled a network appliance that actually manages routing in a routed network. The product, called Route Explorer, is a network appliance that lets operators look into the "clouds" of their IP networks to manage the routes calculated by routing protocols.

When a company unveils a router management system, it's usually no different from any other SNMP device-level manager: Management Information Bases and agents that monitor the performance of physical, hardware-based ports, modules and stand-alone routers.

These managers manage the router instead of the routed network, leaving the operators to stitch together as best he/she can a "view" of the network.

Route Explorer monitors the routes calculated by the routers that run between routers. In essence, it manages the brains of the routed network while SNMP element managers monitor the individual bodies.

The concept behind Route Explorer seems so simple, straightforward and obvious, why didn't anyone think of it before? Estrin says it's due to a church-and-state type mentality among router developers and router operators: Router developers only think about protocols and new ways to route, not about management; operators think about management and not about new ways to route.

Indeed, operators usually come form the circuit-switched telephony world and know little about IP, according to Dave Passmore, research director at the Burton Group in Sterling, Va. They just want to be able to manage any network the way they manage their telephony networks - by presetting static circuit paths between nodes.

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