CA, Tivoli tools take aim at downtime

Two major enterprise management players have released tools designed to help administrators pinpoint network trouble spots.

Computer Associates International Inc. (CA) said its Performance Evaluation Neugents can spot potential failures or service problems before they occur, while Tivoli Systems Inc. said its Tivoli Manager for Network Connectivity associates alarms with particular network devices.

CA’s Performance Evaluation Neugents are the company’s first offering using the artificial intelligence technology acquired through CA’s purchase of AIWare in 1997.

“Neugents can learn about a particular system and then enable that system to adapt to constantly changing conditions,” said Charles B. Wang, CA’s chairman and CEO. “With neugents, we can not only analyse conditions in business markets and technical environments, but we can predict changes in those conditions and suggest courses of action to proactively capitalize on opportunities or send a warning to avoid potential problems.”

The Performance Evaluation Neugents use historical trends and analysis to predict potential problems.

The initial neugents run on Windows NT servers and workstations. Once the neugents are loaded onto the machines, they begin learning about the operation of the network on their own.

Neugent beta testers had nothing but rave reviews of the technology.

“We found the predictions that were made were 100-per-cent reliable and we never had a false prediction,” said Sorrel Jakins, director of server systems at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah.

In one instance, the neugents warned a particular subnet would go down in 20 minutes. BYU staff reset a router on the subnet and the warning went away.

But Jakins noted there was no proof the warning was accurate. So when the same warning came up several days later, Jakins took no action and in approximately 20 minutes the subnet went down.

Ray Paquet, an analyst with consultancy Gartner Group Inc. in Lowell, Mass., said neugents will have a big impact on networking in the long term, but he doesn’t see them as revolutionary technology.

“This is frankly unproven technology,” he said. “It’s especially unproven in its ability to scale down to an agent.”

Neural networking technology has historically been compute-intensive, Paquet said, so he would be concerned about the neugents’ impact on server performance.

The NT Performance Enhancement Neugents are available now as add-on modules to Unicenter TNG 2.1 and 2.2. Wang said CA plans to release performance neugents for Unix and OS/390 systems early next year.

Future neugent offerings will cover other management areas including anti-virus, capacity planning, bandwidth management, data analysis and information management, according to CA officials.

Neugents will be included as a core piece of CA’s Unicenter TND (The Next Dimension), which is slated for delivery in 1999.

While neugents focus on predicting problems before they occur, Tivoli’s Manager for Network Connectivity pinpoints faulty network devices after the fact.

The tool relies on a table which lists network devices on one axis and symptoms those devices exhibit when a problem occurs on another axis. When an alarm comes in, the program associates it with a signature in its database. This allows it to pinpoint the specific network device causing a particular problem.

“It will discover this came from this device and was caused by this element or this feature, or this is the root cause of the problem,” said Gaith Kadir, Tivoli’s product manager for availability and performance. “It pinpoints the problem for you.”

The Manager for Network Connectivity runs on IBM AIX, Sun Solaris and Windows NT boxes. Hewlett-Packard Co.’s OpenView or Tivoli’s NetView are also required.

Kadir said the product is the first member of a family designed to run “out-of-the-box.”

“It needs no programming and no integration. You just drop it in, it will configure itself and start working.” The product also adapts automatically to network topology changes.

Richard L. Ptak, vice-president and research director at D.H. Brown & Associates in Port Chester, N.Y., said Tivoli’s Manager for Network Connectivity will make it easier for managers to identify the sources of network problems.

“This automated analysis reduces the time normally required to identify the cause of network downtime from hours to minutes, because it eliminates the need to manually search for the cause of a network failure,” he explained.

On the downside, the product does not allow managers to make their own modifications, Ptak said.

Tivoli’s Kadir said customization capabilities will be included in later versions.

Tivoli Manager for Network Connectivity 1.0 is available now and lists at US$25,000 per server.

Computer Associates Canada Ltd. in Mississauga, Ont. is at (905) 676-6700 or

Tivoli in Austin, Tex., can be reached at 1-800-284-8654 or

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