Monitor to Manage

By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2011-10-11

Cloud computing moves the "do I care" technical conversation to new and different places, but at the end of the day someone still has to care about network and application performance at the physical level.

Today Network Instruments announced Observer 15, the latest rev of the useful network monitoring platform. This is a tool for people who must care for complex networks, for people who are not "abstracted away" from the underlying compute infrastructure. Observer 15 is for the highly knowledgeable, buck-stops-here engineers that keep make it possible for the airy structures of the cloud. I've covered Network Instruments (and competitors who range from Wildpackets to Ipswitch to SolarWinds) since I started reviewing tech in 1994, coincidentally the same year that NI was founded. I haven't yet had a look at Observer 15, but I can say a few things based on my research and prior use of similar products.

First, complex network topographies require sophisticated tools. One challenge in lab testing Observer 15 is setting up an underlying network that is complex enough to challenge the product. I'll likely be proposing that I do a "labs on site" if I can find an NI user who is willing to let me come be a "network observer" to see how they use the product in their complex environment.

Second, it's interesting to see that two of the major product enhancements focus on communications. Namely a video-conferencing monitor and enhanced analysis capabilities for Microsoft UC (unified communication.) I'm always curious about the actual adoption of video and UC in the enterprise and I think these features are an indication that the technologies are being used on a wider scale than I previously thought.

Finally, Observer 15 is a confirmation that clouds need engineers in order to provide performance that meets user expectations. Cloud computing likely means that fewer people need to care about underlying infrastructure. However, for those who are charged with providing the network functionality, tools like Observer 15 are essential.

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