Eye of the Storm (“Eye”) is a network management tool that runs on commercial Unix-style operating systems (notably Solaris and Linux) and Windows. The core system uses a MySQL database (which is installed as part of the set-up process) to store the information it collects from the devices on the network, and presents it to the user via a combination of a Web GUI and a Java applet (via an Apache/Tomcat installation which, again, is installed when you run the set-up tool).

Once it’s installed, you connect to the package from your browser using the default admin credentials. There are four main sections you can bounce to from the front screen: the “early warning center”, the “dial-in toolkit”, the “report center” and the system administration section.

We’ll deal with the last of these first, as it’s the simplest. The admin section tells you what you’re licensed for, lets you check that the various components are configured and running correctly, and lets you run through the various devices on the network and set up basic criteria such as human-readable names and SNMP community strings (i.e. the passwords Eye needs in order to communicate with them).

Now onto the bigger stuff, of which the key item is the Early Warning Centre (EWC). The main component of this is aforementioned Java applet, which requires particular versions of the Java runtime and Java3D (they’re available via the Eye GUI if you don’t happen to have them to hand). EWC fires up into the Component Viewer, which tells you all about the various entities the system knows about on the network.

It’s the usual two-pane overview-and-detail view, and you can collect related systems together into groups (termed views) to make sense of them. Eye will, of course, dig into each device it knows about - and to which it has the appropriate SNMP access - to examine what’s going on, and this is all presented comprehensively as a collection of tabs within the detail screen.

Nothing particularly unusual so far, but the point of Eye is not that it can tell you about the devices on your network – it’s that it can put what it finds out into context. For instance, once it knows how devices have been communicating with each other, the connectivity viewer will draw you a map of connectivity, allowing you to drill into individual links and find out what and where they are.

Then there’s the bulletin board, which displays network events as they happen in two panes; the bottom is a simple event list, while the top is a filtered view that correlates events and shows you just the stuff that relates to the current status of your world. There’s also the ticker, which gives a real-time view of what’s happening on a set of devices and/or ports that you select for it to report on.

The dial-in toolkit and report centre both relate to the reporting side of the system, so we’ll look at those together. The dial-in toolkit is a simple window into basic data on networked devices – you can search by name for devices, and then leap straight into key time-based graphs of link status, traffic volumes, faults and utilisation levels. The report centre is, as you might guess, a much more in-depth reporting engine. Reports can be done as downloadable entities such as XML documents (typically the kind of stuff you’d aim at management) or as simple on-screen tables. There’s the usual combination of popular stuff (top “n” style figures) that you get at with a couple of clicks versus customisable reports where you spend longer defining what you want to look at. Reporting can be done on demand or based on a schedule, and the report emailer lets you punt either a link to the report or the report itself (in the form of an attachment) via email each time it’s run.

Eye of the Storm is a pretty clever piece of kit. The depth it delves into networked devices extends beyond what you’d get from a normal SNMP-based management tool, as it’s able to go up to layer 4 (ie. check at the basic level that applications are responding), and it can also correlate what it discovers - along with what you tell it manually, of course - for instance to figure out the links in the network. The GUI is well done, and the only issue we had was that Internet Explorer 7 had a bit of a paddy with the way Eye does dial-in toolkit reports as pop-ups, a problem that was resolved with a quick IE settings change.

In short, then, Eye of the Storm is a versatile network monitoring, alerting, inspection and reporting tool. It is pricey, but may appeal to large organisations for whom shortening the time to problem identification brings a significant financial saving.

Incidentally, just as we completed this review, release 5.1 was announced. It’s largely similar to 5.0, but adds a few new items such as integration with Netcool, some additional out-of-the-box reports, and a dashboard that gives quicker access to top-level data without the need to muck about running reports to pull out overview data.

OUR VERDICT

A versatile network monitoring, alerting, inspection and reporting tool. It is pricey, but may appeal to large organisations for whom shortening the time to problem identification brings a significant financial saving.