It's been a busy month for network management vendors, with Network Instruments, Entuity and Netuitive all releasing updated tools that - among other things - address the growing need to make the connection between IT and the business services it supports.

Analysing availability

Network Instruments has released version 5 of its Link Analyst tool, which polls and identifies network devices to assess your network infrastructure's availability and performance. This latest version allows this assessment to be done by business process or department, and also tracks changes, says NI boss and co-founder Douglas Smith.

The £7200 program integrates with NI's Observer and GigaStor network analysis tools too. That means if it spots problems, a network administrator can also monitor application performance and rewind the network traffic or drill down to device level for fault finding.

"This is an active tool, not a passive information gleaner like Observer," says Smith. "Through our use of SNMP, we can draw not only switch-to-server relationships but also switch-to-switch relationships - what's connected to which ports.

"It can also group SNMP and WMI (Windows management interface) objects. Observer is very good at finding problems related to traffic, but it's not so good at finding problems internal to a device, such as a server hard disk filling up.

"Link Analyst v5 can also show timing and availability. It's like Tracert, but it can graph over time, and it can show if a route is flapping, which is useful for checking that your MPLS network is set up properly."

Smith says the market for such tools has changed. In the past, it was mainly about mapping your network from a management perspective - Link Analyst derives from a tool originally developed for mapping Novell NetWare LANs, for example.

Now though, it is now much more about organising the data to show how business services map onto the IT infrastructure. "There's only a certain amount of data a system can give you," he adds. "After that, it's how you organise it."

An Eye for the business manager

Meanwhile, Entuity has drastically upped the reporting capabilities of Eye of the Storm, its integrated network monitoring software, to make it easier for net admins to feed relevant performance information (that 'IT service delivery' stuff) to business-side managers.

"As the IT infrastructure becomes more complex and as IT departments become internal service providers, people demand more services and see them as consumables," says marketing programmes manager David Halliwell. "It means you need lots of tools, and you have to put the information into very easy to understand reports. A lot of the customer requests we get are to continually improve the reporting aspect."

As well as more reports and the ability to export data for analysis, Eye's developers have added a configuration tracking and checking tool, which checks that your switches and other gear are set up correctly and according to company policy. It may not be as comprehensive as stand-alone tools to do the same job from the likes of Netcordia, but it's a free add-on - once you've bought Eye, of course, which costs from around £25,000.