InCharge Keeps An Eye on VPN Operations

Smarts' IP VPN offering separates network events; provides scale.

System management arts inc. this week will do its part to foster greater acceptance of service provider IP virtual private networks with the launch of a new root-cause analysis and reporting package for managing IP VPNs.

InCharge IP VPN Solution (see screen) gives service providers the kind of visibility into how actual VPN services are operating that is required to build meaningful SLAs (service-level agreements), according to company officials and early users.

The bundle of InCharge adapters, analysis software and device licenses can help keep service providers on top of how VPN services are operating, rather than having to surmise that from SNMP traps or network events that dont directly show the impact of infrastructure problems on a specific service, company officials said.

The tool, which can separate duplicate events that are generated when an outage occurs, also provides the scale necessary for large service provider networks, according to one early user working with the tool, who asked not to be named.

"The main benefit of Smarts is the root-cause analysis. It lets you scale your network and tie in cross-domain correlation to your service offering. The new enhancements let correlation be done per VPN instead of one huge network with 10,000 ports on it," said the user.

"Things like [Hewlett-Packard Co.s] OpenView dont scale to port sites which have 1,000 ports or 20,000 devices and 2 million elements," the user said.

The cross-domain correlation is based on topology, events and analysis done between different technology layers or between service provider and customer domains to show how problems on either side affect the other. That capability can eliminate finger pointing when outages happen.

The visibility the tool provides for specific IP VPN customers fills a gap in the capability of network monitoring and management tools, according to Paul Bugala, an analyst at International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass.

"Lacking in VPN architectures now is an understanding of elements that support a VPN, so service providers can give customers more than the network-level SLAs they have available now. Understanding down to the customers [premises equipment] and from an IP level what actual links are supporting a particular VPN responds to a real need in the market," Bugala said.

The tool also includes the ability for service providers to handle overlapping private IP addresses.

The InCharge IP VPN tool is available in a version designed for Multiprotocol Label Switching-based IP VPNs and a version intended for asynchronous transfer mode and frame relay IP VPNs. Pricing starts at about $90,000.

In later releases of the offering, Smarts will add new features including Management Information Base VPN discovery, VPN auto-tagging of IP domains, IP Security and optical domain support.

The enhancements are due by years end.