Tool tries to alleviate network stress

As networks continue to house critical information, network managers and administrators will continue to look for virtually anything which will enable them to monitor their status. The recently released OptiViewT version 2.0 is one such tool that Fluke Networks hopes will offer support for the functionality of an organization’s network.

The hardware tool plugs into the network and acts as a node. Its primary function is to allow network managers to stress test the network to ensure there is enough bandwidth to handle traffic.

“The (OptiviewT) allows you to follow a path through switches which typically you couldn’t do before. It allows you that view of the network,” said David Green, director of marketing for Fluke Networks in Canada in Mississauga, Ont. He added that it could take the data and route users by switching the information to the appropriate place on the network; this allows the information to be traced by going through the switch.

The product is able to stress test networks through a variety of analysis activities including seven layer protocol analysis, active discovery, SNMP device analysis, Web-enabled remote, RMON2 traffic analysis and a physical-layer testing in a single gigabit-capable tool. “What this allows you to do with the stress testing is to stress it at all different levels and to take a proactive approach to run it at the maximum bandwidth,” Green said. And it prevents the network from becoming overloaded because it displays why the network is slow, be it from traffic, downloading or printing.

As the product displays the traffic path graphically, reports can be generated and provide an inventory of the data. As well, it is able to advise on which devices are connected to what, specifically in an Ethernet environment. “It draws a map and let’s you look at the speed, the VLAN and to find details on (specific) devices and where the problems were.”

In addition, the product can be integrated with the company’s Network InspectorT monitoring software version 5.0, which can remotely control the analyzer and pulls data from it. If the OptiView logs or detects an error, it notifies the Inspector console, which in turn sends either a page or an e-mail to the user. It can gather statistics on how the network is running, bandwidth, which switches are running and on configuration.

One industry analyst said tools such as Fluke’s are becoming increasingly important for maintaining and analyzing networks.

“For a lot of (IT) departments this is a must-have kind of product. If you’re ultilizing a large-scale type of network where you don’t have a lot of visibility, it’s pretty essential,” said Dan McLean, research analyst for IDC Canada in Toronto. On the whole, he added that a network analyzer provides a view of what is happening from a hardware vantage point, such as enabling the ability to diagnose if a cable is broken or if a failure occurs on a port or device.

And, McLean added, as networks are increasingly being considered critical, these types of tools will become fundamental products for network administration activities.

Available now, pricing for the OptiView Integrated Network Analyzer begins at $24,000. Priority Gold customers who have the previous version are able to upgrade at no charge, and upgrade pricing for other customers is $2,811. The company is on the Web at