Software-based device tracker from SolarWinds

Crawling around a switch closet is a time-honoured way to find some network devices if your organization doesn’t have a dedicated switch port tracker.

SolarWinds Inc. says its new User Device Tracker software can do much of the same work for a fraction of the price of a hardware appliance.

The application starts at US$1,795 for tracking up to 2,500 ports, and can be installed on any server running Windows Server 2003 R2 and up. It also uses the SQL Server database that comes with WinServer.

“What we’ve done is brought the functionality of being able to track devices into an affordable software product you can install in an hour,” says Sanjay Castelino, the company’s vice-product of marketing.

It can find anything on a wired or wireless network — switches, laptops and even handsets. However, it can’t track a moving device, like a cellphone. That ability might be added in future versions, said Castelino (pictured).

After installation is cans a network to compile a database of switch name, ports, port descriptions, VLAN and other information. Network staff can then search for devices by IP address, hostname or MAC address. They can also drill down into an individual switch and see a diagram of each port.

Among the advantages is it can help network managers find unused ports, or which ports are being used in peak hours, or the top nodes by the percentage of port used, all which can help in capacity planning. It can also tell the last known location of an unconnected device.

The application can be set up with device watch lists that can trigger alerts.

User Device Tracker integrates with other SolarWinds network management products, appearing as a tab on the Orion dashboard all products share.

However it can also be used standalone.

Jim Frey, managing research director at Enterprise Management Associates, said UDT offers good value. “It’s a nice add-on to the SolarWinds solutions. There are cheaper things out there that aren’t necessarily as fully functional, and there are much more expensive solutions for really big environments.”

Organizations with tens of thousands of ports would be better off with a dedicated appliance, he added.

Castelino said UDT might be very appealing to school boards and universities, where users often come on and off a network.
User Device Tracker is available for a 30-day free trial.

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