The problem was baffling if not downright eerie: Employee PCs were spontaneously rebooting for seemingly no reason at all.
After fruitlessly trying to resolve the mystery, the organization called in Tony Fortunato, a Georgetown, Ont.-based consultant whose company is benignly called The Technology Firm. Actually, he’s a network detective who specializes in tracking down what others can’t find.
A ghost in the network? A competitor’s revenge? Nothing so mysterious: The problem was a firewall with a TCP driver bug.
In this case, Fortunato’s ally was that most humble of tools, a protocol analyzer.
We live in an era where there’s no shortage of diagnostic equipment for network administrators to use to track down – and thanks in part to network performance applications, no shortage of data to analyze.
Increasingly automated software and hardware tools with network self-healing capabilities are being touted by utility manufacturers as good enough to prevent most outages. But a number of experts we interviewed suggest common sense is just as important.
“I have yet to find a tool that’s comprehensive enough to be able to say, ‘Here’s the problem and here’s the solution,’” says Fortunato. But a number of them, he adds, are good enough to say where one should start looking.
Surprisingly, with a veritable cornucopia of performance and network management tools on the market, many enterprise-sized clients admitted they were running networks on a shoestring with the barest of diagnostic tools, says Debra Curtis, vice-president of research in Gartner Inc.’s IT operations management group. They call her for advice after realizing the danger they’re in.
Curtis breaks down network diagnostic tools into three broad categories:
• Enterprise network management suites with root-cause analysis capabilities, such as EMC Corp.’s Ionix for IT Operations Intelligence (formerly called Smarts), CA Technologies Inc.’s Spectrum Service Assurance, Hewlett-Packard's Network Node Manager and IBM Corp.'s Tivoli Network Manager among others.
• Network performance appliances with traffic analysis and x-flow monitoring. Arguably the largest range of diagnostic tools, they include familiar products from CA’s NetQoS, NetScout Systems Inc., Fluke Networks' OptiView series and SolarWinds. She also mentioned Opnet Technology Inc.’s troubleshooting application, ACE Analyst, and SevOne Inc.’s PAS (Performance Application Solution).