By eweek  |  Posted 2006-10-09 Print this article Print

Network General has done a good job of consolidating its many network analysis, system monitoring and reporting tools under one umbrella—Network Intelligence Suite.

Available since Sept. 18, Network Intelligence Suite—which fuses Sniffer Enterprise NetVigil 4.2 and Sniffer Enterprise Visualizer 4.2—monitors system and network elements and provides detailed network analysis reports based on data gathered by either Sniffer Distributed agents or, as in eWEEK Labs tests, from a Sniffer InfiniStream network analyzer.
Based on our tests, shops that already use Sniffer Distributed agents or Sniffer InfiniStream network analyzer tools will likely benefit from the tight correlation between system and network performance now provided by Sniffer products.

Click here to read about the launch of Network Generals Network Intelligence Suite. Network Intelligence Suite is a no-cost layer that sits on top of Sniffer Enterprise components, but the entry costs are steep: Sniffer Enterprise NetVigil 4.2 is priced starting at $55,000, and Sniffer Enterprise Visualizer 4.2 is priced starting at $49,995. The Sniffer InfiniStream i130 we used in testing costs $16,995.

Full integration of Sniffer Enterprise NetVigil 4.2 and Sniffer Enterprise Visualizer 4.2 requires the addition of a $34,995 Sniffer Enterprise Administrator, which manages the authentication of the connection between the two devices. Sniffer Enterprise NetVigil 4.2 and Sniffer Enterprise Visualizer 4.2 can be used together without Sniffer Enterprise Administrator, and eWEEK Labs did not use the latter product during tests.

Warning System

Sniffer Enterprise Netvigil 4.2—a real-time fault monitoring and management tool that monitors the health of servers, applications and network elements from a wide range of vendors—uses tests to understand application response times and warn IT administrators when applications stop working within specified parameters.

Network Intelligence Suite also tests application and network services, such as ICMP pings, to determine if response times are within acceptable norms. The suite uses Enterprise NetVigil 4.2s concept of "containers" to group applications, servers and network elements into a single entity that supports a business process.

The concept of containers isnt new in this generation of Network General products: When Enterprise NetVigil 4.2 was offered by Fidelia (before Network General bought that company), the product used the container concept to create an effective way for IT managers to monitor the systems that supported a particular business function. What Network Intelligence Suite brings to the table is the ability to go from reports that show a problem on the Enterprise NetVigil 4.2 screen to the relevant network data that shows IT managers across various IT disciplines exactly what was happening on the network at the time of the problem.

To test Network Intelligence Suite, we installed Network Generals InfiniStream in our San Francisco lab. We also hooked InfiniStream to a monitor-only tap that was connected to a small segment of our office network. The InfiniStream i130 that we used came in a standard Network General configuration: a 1U (1.75-inch) server running a hardened version of Linux with a 300GB hard drive along with two monitoring ports.

We installed Sniffer Enterprise NetVigil 4.2, a 2U (3.5-inch) appliance running Microsofts Windows Server 2003, on the same network along with a 2U Sniffer Enterprise Visualizer 4.2 appliance. With just a bit of configuration work, which most IT shops should be able to accomplish in less than 30 minutes, we successfully integrated the Enterprise NetVigil 4.2 and Enterprise Visualizer 4.2 systems.

We didnt use the optional Sniffer Enterprise Administrator. If we had, the authenticated connection between the NetVigil and Visualizer appliances would have been handled in a SSO (single sign-on) mode. As it was, we had to log in to the Visualizer only once per NetVigil session.

Network General provides a high level of granularity in terms of setting up users on the Enterprise NetVigil 4.2 and Enterprise Visualizer 4.2 systems, making it possible for administrators from various departments to set up monitoring on only their systems.

This level of segregation also applies to the reports and other extensive network data that Enterprise Visualizer 4.2 pulls from InfiniStream. This is especially important because, while the InfiniStream data isnt directly accessible from Network Intelligence Suite, enough information is available about conversation pairs, traffic types and important systems that IT managers should ensure that only the most trusted network and system engineers are given access to the Network Intelligence Suite interface.

Once the connection between Enterprise NetVigil 4.2 and Enterprise Visualizer 4.2 was forged, it was just a matter of setting up the two products to work normally before we were able to collect the data needed to manage our networks. Aside from any complexities regarding setup of the individual products, IT managers who upgrade their Network General tools to Version 4.2 to take advantage of Network Intelligence Suite will likely encounter very little in the way of additional training costs. Given our experience with the product, network and system managers should expect to see useful reports within a day, with almost no additional time needed to maintain the system.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.


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