ClearSight Networks Analyzer is a fine addition to the administrators toolbox, especially for companies looking to put network analysis at the fingertips of front-line support technicians. However, this intuitive, accessible interface to companies networks comes at a relatively steep cost—and does not currently support 802.11 wireless capture.
eWEEK Labs tested the base version of Analyzer, which ships for $7,995, discounted to $5,995 if ordered before Dec. 31. Full-duplex (regularly $17,995, or $9,995 before Dec. 31) and Gigabit ($34,995, or $24,995 before Dec. 31) versions of Analyzer are also available. All versions began shipping last month. This is a stiff price compared with competing protocol analyzers from Network Instruments LLC and WildPackets Inc., both of which start at $995 per license.
ClearSight Networks Analyzer provides solid application-layer analysis and decodes, and it features a simple, intuitive interface that lets administrators easily re-create problems as reported by users. With Analyzers handy SLA feature, administrators can track and record performance metrics and response times for any supported application. However, at $7,995, Analyzer is on the pricey side.
EVALUATION SHORT LIST
ClearSight justifies the price by trouble-shooting network problems at the application layer and by wrapping Analyzer in an interface that is easy to navigate and understand, even for those who arent network-decode gurus. To be sure, competitors such as Network Instruments Observer are making inroads with their own application-layer analysis capabilities. But ClearSight has a leg up for the moment, and Analyzers interface is among the easiest to use that weve seen. That said, wed like ClearSight to take a page from Network Instruments and integrate wireless support across its product lines. In eWEEK Labs tests, starting Analyzer automatically put us in monitoring mode, snaring data and organizing the findings according to network application. From the opening Application summary page, it is simple to drill down into an application and examine the individual flows. Application errors are called out in the top panel with an icon thats color-coded depending on severity. Network- and physical-layer data is organized into separate panels on the user dashboard.
Within an application flow, Analyzer displays a trellised diagram of the entire conversation, with the appropriate delta and relative transmission times plus any relevant errors. More impressively, Analyzer rebuilds the conversation so the administrator can view (or hear) the problem. SQL and Oracle Corp. database connections and e-mail (including Microsoft Corp.s Exchange) are reconstituted whole.
We found Analyzers decode-filtering capabilities first rate, except when creating custom filters. As in Monitor mode, its easy to identify and isolate application flows or conversations for analysis from a trace file. Likewise, it is simple to generate new captures based on these filters. However, this simplicity fades when creating custom filters for unsupported applications. Creating and applying a custom filter becomes a tedious affair—not nearly as simple as it is with WildPackets EtherPeek.
ClearSights SLA (service-level agreement) feature tracks functionality and response-time metrics for a number of applications. We configured Analyzer to log in and check Post Office Protocol and SMTP server performance, verify Web servers, and perform SQL queries against a database. We configured e-mail and SNMP alerts if performance fell below predefined criteria.
Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at email@example.com.