Scrutinizer adds unusual map to flow analyzer


There’s more than data flowing through your network: Your infrastructure is also likely kicking out a mass of data about that data.

Some network managers have a tough time corralling it all. That’s where NetFlow and sFlow analyzing software comes in.

Little-known Plixer International Inc., which this week released version 7.5 of its Scrutinizer analyzer, believes it has a better way to show what’s going on. It has added a circular graphical view of the top hosts to show which nodes are communicating with each other.

Called The Matrix, at first glance, the picture can be intimidating, with lines bursting away from (or towards) IP addresses rimming the circle. But they show, in a colour-coded way, which are getting or sending most of the traffic.

The company believes it’s better to get the idea across than a line or pie chart. “It takes us back to a fundamental, elementary way to view information,” said Michael Patterson, product manager for Scrutinizer.

“If I tell you here are your top 100 hosts, that’s informative,” he said. “But if I display that your top 400 hosts are communicating with the same hosts, then you can see it visually. It think it puts a sense of urgency on the issue.”

Patterson acknowledges that the concept first appeared in Network General’s (now NetScout System Inc.’s) Sniffer product.

Matrix view will be particularly useful for network managers working away from the data centre who want to keep an eye on things, he said.

Matrix view is one of four new features in version 7.5 of the application, which reports on applications, flows, protocols, domains and geographic parameters across routers and switches.

Also added is NetFlow NBAR (Network Based Application Recognition), which can dig into NetFlow to show applications used by hosts on Cisco networks. Other NetFlow analyzers show traditional NetFlow details such as the port being access, Patterson said. NetFlow NBAR is akin to a packet analyzer to show which application is consuming bandwidth.

However, the Cisco routers have to be using IOS v.15 to take advantage of the feature.

Flow Expert Window gives a high level view of devices that are causing trouble. It takes advantage of Scrutinizer’s MyView, which allows a series of mini-Web pages to appear on a screen showing detailed reports.

Finally, Scrutinizer 7.5 has extended is integration with Google Maps to allow mangers to link maps to routers, which will be useful to organizations with servers in multiple locations.

Scrutinizer competes against flow analysis software such as NetScout’s nGenius, Fluke Corp.’s NetFlow Tracker, SolarWinds’ Orion NetFlow Traffic Analyzer and NetQoS Inc.’s Performance Centre.

Steven Schuchart, a principal analyst at Current Analysis, a Washington, D.C. research firm, hasn’t seen Scrutinizer. However, he said flow analysis software is essential to take advantage of NetFlow, sFlow or Netstream data.

These applications help administrators establish base line network information, he said, so if something on the network changes it’s readily apparent.

In looking for a flow analyzer, Schuchart said, “the reporting function is the really, really important part. It needs custom reporting so you can really dig down to get the data your looking for, in addition to the regular reports.”

Scrutinizer comes in an enterprise and service provider versions. The SP version lets customers log in securely to see their only traffic data.

Pricing is based on the number of routers on the network. The base price supports two routers for US$1,995 plus US$595 for support, and runs up to US$8,995 for an unlimited number of routers plus $1,995 for support.

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