Dell Will Provide Free Switch

Management tool aimed at LAN arena.

Dell Inc. is prepared to challenge established competitors in the LAN switching arena with the introduction of a network management tool that the vendor plans to distribute for free.

Dells OpenManage Network Manager is designed to simplify management of 10 or more PowerConnect Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet switches, according to officials, in Round Rock, Texas.

Dell, just two years into its enterprise networking equipment efforts, is hoping to put itself on customers short list of vendors by bundling in a full-blown network management tool for its PowerConnect 3000- and 5000-series switches, according to Stephen Elliot, an analyst at International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass.

"They wont be left off the list because they dont have the capability," Elliot said.

Dells tool provides a full range of management functions, including automated discovery of PowerConnect switches, as well as monitoring, configuration, event management, performance management and a topology map that allows users to drill down to view specific switches.

The free tool is designed primarily for customers that have 10 or more Dell switches deployed, said a Dell spokesman. "Those tasks you would do consistently across those switches you can do at one time. For example, with firmware upgrades, we can select a group of switches or all switches and automatically apply the firmware upgrade to those switches," the spokesman said.

The tool lets users schedule tasks, such as configuration backups, to run at off-hours.

Competitive management tools that provide similar functionality can cost several thousand dollars, according to Dell officials. For those competitors, such as Hewlett-Packard Co. or 3Com Corp., that offer free management tools, the functionality is not as complete, they said.

The topology map shows the geographic location of equipment and the status of equipment by site.

OpenManage Network Manager also gathers performance data from the PowerConnect switches, which it stores in a SQL database for analysis.

The Java-based client/ server application runs on Windows 2000 and Windows XP. The client requires 256KB of RAM and 400MB of storage.

Customers can download the free software from Dells Web site or request a CD.