Dell to simplify switch management

Dell Inc. on Monday announced it is aiming to make life easier for administrators managing large networks of its LAN gear.

Dell OpenManage Network Manager software, available to Dell networking customers as a free download from Monday, lets administrators perform a variety of management functions on multiple Dell network devices at once, said Ulrich Hansen, Dell senior manager for product marketing.

In addition to saving managers time and companies money, centralizing network element management can help prevent mistakes that slow or shut down networks, according to IDC analyst Stephen Elliot.

“Most network failures are human-related. The more coding…the higher the risk of human error,” Elliot said. In addition, many small- and medium-sized businesses, which make up much of Dell’s customer base, tend to neglect management until the network goes down, he said.

With the OpenManage software, a network manager can define a group of switches and set up configurations, reset access controls, and turn features on and off for all the switches in the group, Dell’s Hansen said. The manager can also keep a back-up copy of the correct configuration to send out to a device if it needs to be restarted.

OpenManage also includes a calendar for managers to schedule events such as configuration back-ups, which are better performed during off hours, and periodic changes in Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) community strings, which work like administrator passwords.

The direct-sales PC giant in Round Rock, Tex., has only been in the network equipment business for about two years and currently is shipping four managed products: the PowerConnect 3324 and 3348 Fast Ethernet switches and the PowerConnect 5212 and 5224 gigabit Ethernet switches. So far, administrators have only been able to manage these switches one by one. The company says OpenManage is ideal for organizations with more than 10 Dell switches. Administrators will be able to use the software from a server console or a Web interface, Hansen said.

Other vendors of LAN gear, including Cisco Systems Inc. and Nortel Networks Corp., already offer tools that have such capabilities, but Dell provides better value by offering its software free, Dell’s Hansen said.

Remote management is likely to make a big difference for Omnium Worldwide Inc., a financial services company based in Omaha, Neb., with several remote offices in the U.S. and one in Brazil, said Steven Cartwright, director of systems and support.

In its headquarters building, Omnium has about 80 Dell workgroup switches and some Dell gigabit Ethernet switches connecting servers in the data centre. At its other offices, the company plans to introduce Dell switches as it phases out older gear from a variety of vendors, Cartwright said.

Currently, when changes need to be made on a switch, an engineer has to go to the floor where it’s located.

“As we start to move these out to the remote sites, it would be great to be able to do that remotely,” Cartwright said.

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