As Good As Gold

Utility makes mapping midsize networks simpler

In Version 6.0 of its WhatsUp Gold network mapping and discovery tool, Ipswitch Inc. has refined the security features of the softwares Web-based maps and has significantly improved log message handling and complex map displays, making the utility a solid investment for managers of small to midsize networks.

Although enterprise network managers are also likely to find WhatsUp Gold a useful tool for local trouble-shooting, the product lacks a centralized monitoring console that can handle distributed network management chores. Tried-and-true tools, such as Hewlett-Packard Co.s OpenView Network Node Manager, are still the best for large organizations.

During eWeek Labs tests of WhatsUp Gold 6.0, which started shipping this month for $795, we were especially impressed with the enhanced security features that prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to WhatsUp Gold network maps. Even though WhatsUp Gold is limited to monitoring the network—a mischievous user wouldnt be able to change such things as a routers configuration—the detailed network maps are not something that should be left open for casual viewing.

As was true with previous versions of WhatsUp Gold, deployment and configuration were a breeze. We simply installed the product on a server running Windows 2000 (WhatsUp Gold can also run on Windows NT or 98) and provided it with an IP address range. We could just as easily have provided an IP address of a seed router to start the network discovery process.

After the network discovery was completed, we set up alarm thresholds for various monitored characteristics on routers, switches and servers. As was the case in previous versions of WhatsUp Gold, we could be notified of trouble by pager or e-mail or via an event notice sent to a log file on the WhatsUp Gold console.

It is much easier to view and manage event log files in this version of WhatsUp Gold than in previous versions. Managers already familiar with the product should find they spend much less time trying to sort through messages to get to important notifications.

We had very few problems using WhatsUp Gold, but the couple we did have related to the network maps we got from the auto-discovery process. Although it was much easier to use the vector-based maps to view our IP and IPX-based test network, we still had to add some connectivity details. For example, during the initial discovery, WhatsUp Gold included several logical connections between the routers in our WAN but failed to connect several subnets of client machines. It was simple to connect these machines using the drawing tool in WhatsUp Gold.

Version 6.0 of the product has also gained a convenient SNMP viewer that let us easily view statistics about various monitored interfaces with just a couple of mouse clicks. In this respect, WhatsUp Gold is playing catch-up with competitors such as MG-Soft Corp.s Net Inspector, which has had a capable SNMP viewer tool for some time.

As with previous versions of WhatsUp Gold, we were impressed with the range of devices the product was able to discover and the products easy-to-use interface. Even junior network operations staff should be able to use WhatsUp Gold with confidence to identify possible network problems. In addition, even grizzled veterans will find that the nimble event notification and detailed map interface in this product take a significant amount of guesswork out of the trouble-shooting process by providing the preponderance of detail needed in any diagnostic situation.