High-definition network management is the next big thing, according to software developer NetScout Systems.

The company has launched version 3.0 of its nGenius Performance Manager and Probe software, claiming the most accurate measurement of network performance on the market.

The high-definition software can collect data as often as once a minute, compared to the five or 15-minute intervals used by rivals, and in addition it digs more deeply into the traffic data, said Jim Frey, NetScout's marketing VP.

"It captures all appplications," he said. "We can now see DNS traffic for example, also peer-to-peer." He added that version 3 can capture QoS data for individual VLANs, identify the applications being served over Citrix, and analyse HTTP traffic down to sub-URL level.

The additional level of detail is especially important on faster networks, Frey noted. He said that a one percent cut-off point - as used by nGenius in the past to determine which traffic is of interest - is fine for Fast Ethernet, but with Gigabit networks, important but low volume applications could easily fall through the net.

"The drivers are a combination of convergence and higher speed networks, where a lot more can happen in a given time," he said. "But the important thing is the detail, not just the traffic volumes."

"IT managers today need greater granularity in their network and application performance metrics," agreed Tony Lock, chief analyst at Bloor Research. "The ability to identify bursts of disruptive application traffic and see all applications on a network will help enterprise IT groups not just with faster troubleshooting, but also with capacity planning, application profiling and network activity baselines."

Lock said that v3 puts nGenius ahead of its rivals both on the volume of information it collects and the analysis of that data. "Unanalysed data is just a storage issue," he added. "Information garnered from high definition data, in near real time, will allow organisations to take better informed IT decisions."

NetScout's Frey said that v3 is free to existing nGenius customers, while new users will pay from $50,000 for it. He said it incorporates analytical technology that NetScout acquired earlier this year with Quantiva.

He added that the company has also built in new profiles to track insidious P2P applications, but said that the higher data collection rates do not require significantly more storage. "It's all deep inspection of headers, not payloads," he said. "The information we collect is for intelligent monitoring and information sharing, not control"

The latter is in the roadmap though - NetScout's next goal is autonomic or adaptive management for networks, much as companies such as IBM are developing self-managing servers. An autonomic network will be able to take actions to fix itself, Frey explained, although this technology is still at least two to three years away.