Netcordia has opened a UK office to sell its NetMRI network management appliance, which it claimed can automatically detect network configuration errors, diagnose problems and suggest solutions.

"The idea is an appliance to do what network engineers do to troubleshoot a network," said Don Pyle, Netcordia's CEO. "It's a bit like a CCIE in a box, it's collating diagnostic information and looking at thresholds and Layer 2 and 3 operational and configuration aspects."

NetMRI is a hardened Linux box with a wizard-driven interface and costs from $7000 (£3500) to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on how many devices you want to manage – the maximum is 2000 devices and 20,000 interfaces per device.

It auto-discovers the network, then you give it the passwords to access the routers; after that you can use it to create templates, push out configurations, monitor devices, and so on. Pyle said that NetMRI also includes rules and configuration guidelines based on experience and industry best-practices, enabling it to automate much of the routine network admin work.

"We support over 200 devices from Cisco, Juniper, Extreme, Foundry, HP, 3Com and so on," he continued. "The low end is 30 routers and switches – that's when we'll give you usable information that you wouldn't otherwise get."

Pyle claimed that NetMRI does not compete with network analysers from the likes of Network General and Network Instruments. "They look at the packet level, we compare back to the system-level configuration. We give you a dashboard and a list of things that went wrong, and can automate some fixes using triggers," he explained.

"We let customers demo it - we have never had one score a 10," he added. "Some have had thousands of misconfigurations or best-practice issues. The challenge then is explaining to them that yes, it really is broken – that's more of the selling process than actually taking the order. It's an education process.

"Networking is a relatively young industry, and a lot of immaturity still exists. I think we bring maturity – other industries have gone through the same transition from no rules, through automation, to rules and processes. It is part of the industry growing up. The stuff you can automate isn't interesting to networking people from a career path point of view."