Netcordia’s NetMRI 3.0 helps network managers do more with less in tough times

Written By: Peter Williams
Published:
Content Copyright © 2009 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

Netcordia has
upped the stakes in the Network Configuration and Change Management (NCCM)
market with its introduction of NetMRI 3.0, which adds detailed impact analysis,
available immediately.

Probably the
biggest fear facing network managers is what will happen when a change occurs.
In my experience a vast majority of networks faults arise out of changes and
this is borne out by Netcordia’s own new customer survey of over 450 network
managers, to which 64% respondents identified change as the number one cause of
problems. It is in this area that the much hyped NCCM software will prove
itself—or otherwise.

The credit crunch
is only exacerbating the potential for problems as staffing levels reduce—which could easily include the departure of some network support and management
staff. In fact, 30% of those surveyed had experienced or anticipated staff
lay-offs within networking in the coming months.

So what does this
mean in practice? Its survey showed some organisations cutting back on
projects, others working longer hours and others looking for help from better
or more automated tools. Netcordia scores on the last count because it is
probably more automated than any of its peers. Meanwhile, there is added
pressure from regulatory and internal policy compliance which can apply down to
network device level.

“Change must
happen, but what is the impact [i.e. on the network]?” Netcordia’s VP of marketing
Yama Habibzai told me this week. “You need to know who, what, when and where—and is the company abiding with compliance rules—to the ‘gold’ standard, or are
they failing?”

Compliance with
policies right down to network device level is a growing problem, covering
issues such as payment card (PCI) or Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) requirements as well
as internal policy implementation.

Habibzai explained
that NetMRI ships with around 200 rules with best practices and their impacts
incorporated which help enforce compliance and standardisation through an
organisation. A wizard-like interface is provided for users to deploy all their
policies in a pick and mix from the templates—which allows collaboration on
the policies and includes manager approvals.

The proof will be
in the eating of course, but one example is a policy which states “Apply PCI
across the entire network; go.” No further action is needed, and afterwards the
system can automatically vet changes to see if they violate the implemented
rules. This is all about doing more with less when resources are stretched.

New diagnostics can
highlight the impact of even the smallest changes—something which some other
vendors may consider too insignificant (but which have been known to produce
devastating results). The intention is that the network manager will always have
his finger on the pulse.

With this in mind,
a graphical interface provides a series of multi-dimensional web-based displays
that help guide the user into what is going on. For instance, a timeline
dashboard shows changes over time to assist in root cause analysis and give
clues as to the health of the network and policy-adherence. Some topology
status views show where in the network the change occurred—which can overlay
both the health and compliance status information for the location with
dependencies. Then its Network Explorer software provides ad hoc analysis which
can throw up commonality in effects related to device attributes. This
information was always present, but previously in spreadsheet ‘rows and
columns’ format.

It is anyway the
case that, for a new user, the NetMRI software will install in under 15 minutes,
after which it will discover the network and topology. The software may not
have all the bells and whistles of some high-end products—but they carry a higher
price tag alongside a need for more specialised staff skills to manage complexity.

This tells me Netcordia—and its users—ought to be in a better place than some NCCM vendors and users to weather the fallout of the 2009 economic squeeze.