Product review: Seagate makes sense of network events

Network management will always be a necessary evil in the modern enterprise. The more you add to your network, the more you will rely on network management tools to help you keep a finger on the pulse of your mission-critical systems. Fortunately, tools such as Seagate Software's recently released NerveCenter 3.5 can help large enterprises weed through the thousands of alarms and event triggers that may come in every hour.

The more devices you manage, the more data and alarms there are to sift through, making the management task itself quite a burden. This version of NerveCenter can help administrators make sense of these events while offering proactive, systems management help.

The product is not a typical SNMP management console: it works with existing network management tools to serve as both a filtering and automation tool. NerveCenter can monitor SNMP alarms and then, via administrator-defined behaviour models, react to events in a coherent manner. However, it is not as simple to plug in as you might expect, and its selection of pre-installed Management Information Bases, or MIBs, could be improved.

NerveCenter is not your typical plug-and-play solution. As with most network management software, you will have to take some time to master NerveCenter's terminology and processes. I was able to get a grip on and master most tasks fairly quickly by working with the product's documentation, but some of the advanced features do require some additional reading.

You can populate NerveCenter's node database manually, or by importing data directly from Hewlett-Packard's OpenView. Although this product release provides support for triggering events in other network management platforms, such as Computer Associates' Unicenter, the data import and synchronisation feature currently work only with OpenView.

After populating the database, I was able to quickly create the alarm filters, which handle the task of filtering out less important alarms. Further, I could create behaviour models that handle the task of providing a predetermined reaction to an event or series of events. Behaviour models are really the heart and soul of the product, because they provide proactive behaviour capabilities.

Seagate includes quite a few default behaviour model elements that I was able to draw on for my testing, but the ability to write custom behaviour routines is practically unlimited.

For Perl lovers, NerveCenter is a dream come true. The product relies on Perl to provide advanced scripting capabilities for administrators who want to extensively customise their automation routines. The product has a nice script-builder interface, allowing administrators to create and publish Perl subroutines that can be drawn on from subsequent behaviour models.

Although the implementation of Perl scripting is really useful, I think NerveCenter should be able to support other scripting languages, such as JavaScript, TCL, or VBScript.

One key advantage to using NerveCenter is its Downstream Alarm Suppression feature. Downstream Alarm Suppression means that the product is smart enough to know that if a group of systems appears to be down or unreachable, and a router or switch between the alarm console is down, then those alarms can be ignored.

I was able quickly to create parent/child relationships between different nodes to create a framework for tapping into Downstream Alarm Suppression capabilities.

Overall, NerveCenter is a strong tool to add to your arsenal of network management weapons. Sites that are already sifting through far too many alarms will definitely find that the product can alleviate much of the grunt work revolving around SNMP alarm management.

What's more, by making use of the added event automation component, administrators just might reclaim some of their night and weekend time. Now, if they could just apply some of this intelligence to my e-mail inbox, I would really be happy.

(Senior Analyst Jeff Symoens ( reviews enterprise platforms and services for the InfoWorld Test Center.)The bottom line: very goodNerveCenter 3.5A good complement to your network management and monitoring platform, NerveCenter adds strong event filtering and automation capabilities.

Pros: Good filtering and event automation; extensive customisation via built-in Perl implementation; Web-based management console.

Cons: Takes some time to learn; limited number of pre-installed MIBs.

Seagate Software, Scotts Valley, California; (800) 327-2232; fax: +1 (407) 531-7770;

Price: One server console, 10 managed nodes: $US2195.

Platforms: Windows NT 4.0; HP-UX 10.2, 11.0; Solaris 2.51 and 2.6.

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