Network Instruments Enhances Protocol Analyzer

Observer 9.0 is the first Windows-based protocol analysis and monitoring tool that can support a 4GB memory buffer to better support high-speed networks, say officials.

Network monitoring provider Network Instruments LLC next week will try to race ahead of the protocol analysis pack with a re-architected version of its Windows-based Observer software.

Observer 9.0, targeted at medium-sized enterprises, is the first Windows-based protocol analysis and monitoring tool that can support a 4GB memory buffer to better support high-speed networks such as Gigabit Ethernet, according to Douglas Smith, president and co-founder of the nine-year-old company in Minneapolis.

"Windows only allows 100 megabytes to hold (non-swappable) data. Protocol analyzers drop packets when you do swapping. If you have a Gigabit network running at wire speed, that gives you an eighth of a second to capture problems," explained Smith.

"With Gigabit Ethernet, you have 10 times the data coming through compared to 100 Megabit Ethernet. The bigger your buffer, the more data you can capture and you are more likely to be able to see the problem youre trying to solve," said Michael Disabato, senior analyst at The Burton Group in Barrington, Ill.

Network Instruments found a way to use reserved memory outside of Windows to boost its buffer capacity and be able to capture 40 times more troubleshooting data. "I think other analyzers will be forced to come up with this," said Smith.

Observer 9.0, which monitors LANs, WANs, 802.11 wireless and Gigabit Ethernet, also adds the ability to support as many as 64 network interfaces across the range of topologies it monitors. New multi-session support allows multiple Observer consoles to attach to the new multi-probes, allowing multiple operators to view the same interface to collaborate on troubleshooting.

The privately held company also enhanced the user interface to make it more intuitive, and it added new application analysis capability to monitor application response time, track application session flows and failed transactions, and view application detail in conversation flows. Application protocols supported include DNS, FTP, HTTP, voice over IP, Telnet, SMTP, SNMP and Oracles TNS (Transient Network Substrate).

The new interface addresses a complexity issue created by the wide range of protocol decodes the tool supports, according to Chris Berry, president of PC Fix Inc. in Newport Beach, Calif. "The interface (was) very busy. That turned off a lot of people because they couldnt figure out the interface. They spent a lot of time and effort on improving that. Now the interface is the cleanest that Ive seen of any (protocol analyzer)," he said.

The new release, which also integrates with Hewlett Packard Companys OpenView Network Node Manager, will be available on Monday.

Discuss this in the eWEEK forum.