Sniffer probes into net management

Network Associates Inc.’s Sniffer Technologies Inc. arm last week announced that it has added central administration and Web-based access capabilities to its distributed network probes, moves that could help companies more quickly determine the source of network and application performance problems.

While the beauty of Sniffer probes is that they can be distributed across an enterprise network, that also has been the problem with them. Network staffers have had to trudge out to each probe to find out what the probes have detected and consolidate those findings manually.

The company’s new Sniffer Enterprise Management Architecture is designed to change all that by giving network staffs the ability to access and upgrade the probes remotely from any computer with a Web browser and analyze data collected by multiple probes.

The architecture is based on three components: The existing Sniffer Distributed probes, appliances that passively collect traffic data on network segments; Sniffer Resource Manager, which provides centralized control over the probes via a Web interface. This new offering is available either as software that runs on a Windows NT/2000 box or as an appliance. In either case, Resource Manager communicates with probes via HTTP; and Sniffer Watch, which collects data in a SQL Server database and generates reports on network traffic. It is available as software or an appliance.

Eric Hemmendinger, a research director with Aberdeen Group, says the enhancements take the probes out of the basic network diagnostics realm and into that of application management. Customers could use the products to determine how an application is running based on traffic statistics from across a network, perhaps quicker than they could with traditional network management systems that primarily track network device performance.

“Here’s a company that basically developed the concept and the brand of the ‘sniffer’ probe. Now they’re making that network diagnostic tool do more,” he says. “In a year, Sniffer won’t be a techie-only tool. Application-level managers will be using this for debugging and deploying applications.”

Sniffer Distributed probes are priced at US$13,900 apiece, while Sniffer Resource Manager costs US$27,500 and Sniffer Watch costs US$30,000. Visit the company online at

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