NetCordia, a network management company following a road less traveled, released the second major software version for its unique NetMRI network analysis and reporting appliance.
NetMRI uses a variety of collection mechanisms to gather configuration and operational data from switches and routers to allow network engineers to more quickly troubleshoot and resolve complex network problems.
The latest release of the "power tool for network engineers" adds twice the number of embedded expert rules to assess, audit and detect 150 configuration and Quality of Service problems in the network, according to Terry Slattery, founder and CTO of the Annapolis, Md., company, which has marketed the tool for three years.
Topping the list of new expert rules in NetMRI 2.0 software are new Routing Neighbor analysis rules that can help network engineers identify changes in routing topology that can indicate possible stability problems.
The analysis incorporated into the rules can flag problems in protocols, interfaces, configurations and services before they affect network performance.
Detecting "routing neighbor changes and routing table changes is more important with VOIP running on network," Slattery said.
A new optional Quality of Service module for the appliance can detect changes in queue performance that can affect mission critical applications that would be assigned a higher priority.
For example, if the module detects that packets in high-priority queues are being dropped, it could mean that "either your initial assumption of usage of that bandwidth is oversubscribed, or the link itself is over-utilized, so you will see dropped packets across all queues," said Slattery.
The module can also identify inconsistent QoS configurations across switches and routers from major equipment suppliers.
Although NetMRI competes partially with offerings from network management vendors such as Apparent Networks, NetScout, Fluke Networks as well as IBM with its NetCool and EMCs Smarts, its unique approach makes it "compete with everyone and no one, according to Dennis Drogseth, industry analyst with Enterprise Management Associates in Portsmouth, N.H. "Nobody is a head-on competitor with this design point.
Drogseth said he believes what sets it apart is its "minimal overhead, great analysis and information about a broad range of data points across a lot of sources. But they produce very usable informative reports and [graphical user interfaces]. Its not a slug-it-out kind of data mining situation," he added.
Beta tester and network engineer Brian Thoman, who is using NetMRI for monitoring, configuration management and policy enforcement, said he found that the new software release "runs scripts a lot faster." He declined to identify his employer.
"When we run a script against 400 or 500 devices, what used to take several hours is 10 times faster," he added.
Thoman also found NetMRIs discovery capability is "impressive in what it can find and in how quickly it finds things."
That capability is a great improvement over Cisco Systems CiscoWorks, he added. Although the discovery capability does not yet gather Cisco NetFlow data, that support is planned for later this year, Slattery said.
NetMRI, made up of a core system and optional modules such as the QoS Module and a new policy management module, also in version 2.0, adds automatic database backup and support in the appliance for TACACS+ and RADIUS authentication.
Version 2.0 is available now for the NetMRI appliances, which include a range of sizes for networks with as few as 50 routers, switches and firewalls to networks that have 20,000 devices.