OPNET creates new intelligent network management tool

When Leon Stanley Jr. was awarded the task of optimizing sections of the U.S. government’s network, he was looking for tools that not only would save money, but precious time as well.

Stanley, founder, CTO and CIO of M2 Consulting Inc., a security, database and performance management firm in Vienna, Va., turned to Bethesda, Md.-based OPNET Technologies Inc. to provide the necessary solutions for the project.

M2, which had been using OPNET’s flagship product IT Guru – software that enables network pros to predict the performance of networks and networked applications – selected OPNET’s latest offering, the Virtual Network Environment Server (VNE Server).

According to OPNET, VNE Server offers an online integrated view of enterprise and service provider networks and comes with modelling capabilities, which allow administrators to see the result of potential changes to the network prior to installation.

“There are a whole bunch of great companies out there who will analyze traffic or packets or look at utilization. But no one was really taking network configuration information and combining it with traffic information and detailed application information and putting it all together,” said Todd Kaloudis, vice-president of marketing and business development for OPNET. “That is really the vision behind VNE Server. Whether you want to do a report straight from VNE Server or tell IT Guru to make a change on last month’s network configuration, the idea was to get all the information available in one place and have it always available.”

Kaloudis continued that through extensible data collection adapters, VNE Server is able to gather information from different network management solutions and group like information together.

“VNE Server is not only getting its own information but it also gets information from our partners like Concord Communications Inc.,” he explained. “If you were to get information from Concord about traffic on a particular link, [VNE Server] would automatically merge that information with its understanding of topology.”

And for M2’s Stanley, eliminating the many pockets of information that different management products provide enables network administrators and designers to be more productive.

“As most people know, the government at times is so large that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” Stanley said. “(VNE Server) allows us to sit there and gather information from both the left hand and the right hand and consolidate those into one central area so I have all the information in a timelier fashion than if I had to go and do it all manually.”

He added that the product also has allowed M2 to save money since the firm no longer must install, wait and test network devices to ensure they work properly within the network.

“I can actually model it with VNE Server to make sure it does what it is supposed to do,” he said. “Productivity is key especially in the government. We don’t have time to play around with the menial task of putting up a router and seeing what happens. Information is power. We need to get information to our customers as soon as possible.”

While the VNE Server has been a saviour for M2, IDC Canada Ltd. suggests this may be an exception to the rule. According to Dan McLean, the notion of network performance is rising in importance for a lot of companies, but at the enterprise level, many companies are just struggling with simply getting a good handle on monitoring and managing their networks.

“Most companies are not thinking about how to optimize and how to go beyond monitoring and managing,” said McLean, director of outsourcing and IT utility research in Toronto. “There certainly are businesses where you want to optimize performance of the networks, as in the case of highly distributed businesses or companies that are very deep into e-commerce and e-business where the performance of the network becomes critical.”

McLean added that network optimization is an expensive area in which to make investments, and cost is likely a deterrent for the average enterprise to take on such a venture.

“If you can use the product and somehow see some business value from it, that is where you will likely make the investment,” he said. “Frankly, I think at this stage in the game it is a bit of a tough sell.”

The VNE Server from OPNET is available now and is priced at approximately US$90,000 per server. For more information, visit the company online at www.opnet.com.