By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2005-04-04 Print this article Print

Configuring thousands of far-flung network devices is always a challenge for IT staff. AlterPoint Inc.s DeviceAuthority Suite 3.5 provides a well-integrated set of tools that leverages the companys knowledge of configuration syntax to let all levels of network operations staff create and distribute reliable configuration files quickly.

DeviceAuthority Suite 3.5, available now, automates backup tasks as well as configuration and deployment of multivendor switches, routers, firewalls, VPNs and wireless access points. The suite issues reports automatically via e-mail or via a Web interface.

eWEEK Labs used DeviceAuthority Suite 3.5 to manage configuration changes on a range of Cisco Systems Inc. and Extreme Networks Inc. equipment. In most cases, we used the suite to copy the existing configuration to our central console. As with previous versions of the product, we could back up configurations and make modifications for redeployment.

DeviceAuthority Suite 3.5s new script-recording tool, along with a syntax checker that pointed out when we tried to code configuration commands incorrectly, should significantly reduce the amount of time senior network engineers need to build new configurations.

Our tests showed that DeviceAuthority Suite 3.5 should enable network administrators to cut operations costs, increase network availability, streamline network change procedures and demonstrate regulatory compliance—especially when compared with using handcrafted scripts or a hodgepodge of single-purpose network management tools.

This isnt to say that DeviceAuthority Suite 3.5s extensive configuration management capability comes easily or on the cheap. During tests, we were constantly reminded of just how much network configuration design is an art as well as a science. Equipment groups must be created, and management decisions must be molded into technical expression for network devices.

However, it didnt take us long to see that DeviceAuthority Suite 3.5 could do a lot more to help network managers. For example, while the product ably pointed out syntax errors in tests, it offered no help on correcting the problem. Company officials said plans include enabling the suite to display the options for a syntactically correct command.

That would be a welcome addition, but we also think AlterPoint needs to include wizards that use best-practice guidelines from network equipment makers to walk network engineers through configuration creation. Competing products already offer these capabilities.

As with past versions of DeviceAuthority Suite, we believe that only the most senior network managers should initially be given access to the product. During the first few months, senior staff should use the tool to create equipment groups and policies. Only then should less-expert staff use the software .

As with competitors, including Voyence Inc.s VoyenceControl offering, network configuration management is affordable only for large, high-value networks.

DeviceAuthority Suite 3.5 includes DeviceAuthority Server, DeviceAuthority Audit and DeviceAuthority Update and is priced starting at $19,950 for 100 devices. Volume discounts are available. The three components can also be purchased separately, but we think using the entire suite is the best way to keep network configuration costs as low as possible.

Next page: Getting rid of guesswork.

Cameron Sturdevant Cameron Sturdevant has been with the Labs since 1997, and before that paid his IT management dues at a software publishing firm working with several Fortune 100 companies. Cameron also spent two years with a database development firm, integrating applications with mainframe legacy programs. Cameron's areas of expertise include virtual and physical IT infrastructure, cloud computing, enterprise networking and mobility, with a focus on Android in the enterprise. In addition to reviews, Cameron has covered monolithic enterprise management systems throughout their lifecycles, providing the eWEEK reader with all-important history and context. Cameron takes special care in cultivating his IT manager contacts, to ensure that his reviews and analysis are grounded in real-world concern. Cameron is a regular speaker at Ziff-Davis Enterprise online and face-to-face events. Follow Cameron on Twitter at csturdevant, or reach him by email at csturdevant@eweek.com.

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