How many examples have we seen in the past of companies “paying lip service” to network management system? Or even worse, buying an expensive system and then not really using it. A bad deployment of an NMS can be positively damaging to a network. Take one example, where a well-known entertainments company was found to be taking up 72 percent of its network capacity with NMS traffic alone. At the same time, a network that is let loose without control is bad news, sooner or later. What is clear then, is that there is definitely still a need for network management, but for a much-simplified approach. IT departments want a system that gives them just the information that is of real value; that doesn’t hog the network in its own right; and doesn’t cost millions to buy and millions more to deploy. Such is the thinking behind the second wave of network management product developers, such as Mutiny. With TNM, Mutiny is breaking the old rules. TNM is all about simplicity and cost-saving. That is, the “hidden” costs of a classic NMS deployment - training, timescales, day-to-day management and maintenance. For a start, it comes as a network appliance that you attach to the network and switch on. There is no training required in order to deploy the product - nor is there reason to set aside days or weeks for the deployment but just a few hours, instead. This appliance-based approach to management provision does makes sense. The first advantage comes with ease of installation. Anyone who has wrestled with a complex software installation will require little persuasion as to the benefits of a system that arrives pre-installed. The principal concepts behind appliances are easily understood. Like domestic appliances, IT appliances serve particular, and specific, functions. As you would expect to have a separate cooker, washing machine and dishwasher, each with their own, well-defined domestic function, so too in the office environment you are expected to use separate appliances for applications such as file and print, security, and web services. So, why not network management? The Mutiny TNM is designed to provide network monitoring and alerting facilities for SNMP-based devices, from PCs to high-end routers, mid-range systems such as an IBM AS400, and beyond. It consists of a neat, small-footprint Toshiba SG-20 server appliance with Red Hat Linux and the Mutiny software pre-installed. It has integrated connectivity for LAN and WAN, the latter used to send pager and SMS-based alerts. The first task for the Mutiny appliance is to poll the configured IP address ranges and build a database and map of discovered devices. Specific icons are auto-assigned to particular device types, so from a visual perspective, an untrained computer user can easily recognise what is being shown. What information is retrieved thereafter by the system is dependent on what the SNMP service at each device is collecting. For example, this might include processor, memory and disk utilisation, as well as system processes. The TNM system is particularly suited to monitoring application servers such as MS Exchange, SQL Server and IIS, via optional remote agents. Each agent supports a very wide range of metrics, all configurable. Alerts are raised once pre-configured warning and critical thresholds have been exceeded. For ongoing monitoring, Mutiny’s TNS uses a simple concept based around four specific icons to show device status. Any unknown devices are assigned a blue circle, while a yellow rotating icon gives a triggered-warning and a red pulse identifies a critical system problem. The classic green “all clear” icon completes the picture. Rather than simply offering a basic alert procedure, as is often the case, Mutiny has built in a tiered support contact database, consisting of primary, secondary and default shift patterns, per day, so that the TNM automatically determines the order in which support staff should be called out, as well as in what form to notify them.

OUR VERDICT

As a different approach to network monitoring - for devices and applications alike - the Mutiny TNM is worth considering for any network where simplicity of operation is key but where that network is still a critical component of the business.