Network Physics hones application management focus

Company says upgrade software will enable customers to pinpoint performance problems faster.

Network Physics says network engineers are experts on ports, packets and protocols. Where they could use some help is in quickly identifying the impact of specific applications on network performance.

The company next week at Interop plans to show how it has incorporated application analysis capabilities across its updated management software and distributed appliance suite. NetSensory 6.0, a version of the appliances’ operating system software scheduled to ship in January, supports application classification, meaning it can quickly identify the type of application (such as VoIP or SAP) by watching and monitoring traffic.

Industry watchers say such application-centric upgrades are necessary for any network management vendor going forward. Yet companies also need to be able to provide insight into the data they collect across network, system and application components, says Dennis Drogseth, a vice president with Enterprise Management Associates.

“The company has a history of gathering huge amounts of rich data, but customers have complained that dealing with all that information can be a challenge for anyone other than a senior engineer,“ Drogseth says. “With this release, they have gone a long way to improving the usability of the data they collect and providing more granular means to diagnosing problems by applications."

Network Physics says the added application discovery and monitoring features enable network engineers at all levels to more quickly determine the source of performance problems, without as much manual intervention to perform “deep-dive packet inspection" with a handheld protocol analyzer, for example.

Network Physics’ offering includes a central management and administration appliance called the NP-Director that works with distributed appliances that send intelligent summary data to the console. The distributed appliances can respond to problems without direction from NP-Director, but an administrator using NP-Director can tap into endpoint appliances to get a global view of a network. Typically, the appliances are installed on a span or mirror port, or via a tap, to core switches in a network.

The application-specific technology, which can capture the various states of an application as it completes transactions and processes, would have Network Physics competing with fellow network management vendors such as Network General, and could make NetSensory a complementary tool to software from the likes of Compuware and Mercury Interactive (recently acquired by HP).

Network Physics says it also will preview a software add-on to NetSensory at Interop. Dubbed Business Reporter, it provides customers with a means to generate reports for IT management, line-of-business managers and other higher-level executives. Expected to be available in the first quarter of 2007, Business Reporter will be offered as a licensed upgrade to NP-Director.

Network Physics also will show NetSensory 5.3, due to ship by month’s end. It includes real-time service-level performance monitoring and reports, as well as deeper insight into undefined applications, the company says. It will also unveil the NP-3000, a 2U appliance designed to handle higher traffic volumes than existing appliances.

The NP-3000 starts at about $40,000 for an enterprise version. A typical Network Physics deployment could include two or three distributed appliances and one NP-Director, and pricing could start around $150,000 to $250,000, depending on network configuration.

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