NAI adds management tools to Sniffer line

Network Associates Inc. on Tuesday plans to announce two new products to ease management of its distributed Sniffer network probes and expand the reporting based on data collected by the boxes, the company said.

The new products, dubbed network Performance Orchestrator (nPO) Manager and nPO Visualizer, are two separate, 2U (3.5-inch or 90-millimetre) rack-mountable boxes, targeted at customers who have over 20 Sniffer boxes installed, said Stuart Beattie, senior field marketing manager for Network Associates (NAI) in Santa Clara, Calif.

Manager adds the ability to change user passwords and install software updates on all Sniffer boxes in an organization at once. Also, Manager makes it possible to access Sniffer data in widely used network management software from Hewlett-Packard Co. and Tivoli Systems Inc., for example, according to NAI.

Until now, password and software changes had to be made on each individual box and Sniffer data was accessed separately from other network management tools, Beattie said.

Visualizer pulls information together from Sniffer boxes and displays it so a network manager can easily spot network usage patterns and identify problems. Reports from nPO Visualizer could help a network manager when making his case to management for new infrastructure or a bandwidth upgrade, Beattie said.

NAI is catching up with its competitors when it comes to plugging in to common network management software platforms, but the Visualizer is a new tool, commented Clive Longbottom, head of research for Quocirca Ltd. in Windsor, England.

“It is an oversight that NAI had for a long time, they caught up with the others,” he said of the integration now offered. “Visualizer is what is needed. Network managers now get the capability to show what they mean by collisions on their network and what the impact is. These reports justify what you are spending more money on.”

Although network managers may like the features of the new products, they may be turned off by the size of them, said Longbottom.

“Organizations that use Sniffer are looking at blade servers to save space. Then here comes NAI wanting 4U for what is essentially a commodity hygiene factor,” he said. “4U sounds like a hell of a lot of real-estate for something that should not be that much of electronics. It could ruin the whole market for NAI.”

NAI’s Beattie disagreed, contending that customers “overwhelmingly said they wanted separate boxes. “If Visualizer or Manager were installed on a server that itself is in trouble you have an additional problem,” Beattie said.

A typical Sniffer probe user will need one nPO Manager and one nPO Visualizer box, Beattie said. The new products should be available from Sniffer resellers before the end of the year and cost from US$30,000 for nPO Manager and from US$40,000 for nPO Visualizer, according to Beattie.

Sniffer network probes are used to monitor and analyze network performance. Probes can be installed at various points in a network, for example on switches and at the connection the Internet. A single box costs about US$10,000, with the price depending on the size of the customer’s network, according to Beattie.

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