Review: HP, IBM, CA deliver highly scalable network management suites

Each software suite can optimize performance, solve problems and help save money

A network that measures downtime in millions of dollars per minute (or per second!) needs a serious, enterprise-level network management tool. Nothing less will do.

The ideal network management platform accurately discovers devices, computers and applications on the network, works on networks of any size and uses computing resources frugally (after all, it performs no data processing - it's there to watch over the network).

It can work within the framework of a global directory (LDAP, for example). It graphically depicts the entire network, subsets of the network and individual devices. It monitors the status and health of every device or computer on the network. It can glean its data from a variety of sources, including agents, probes, SNMP-enabled devices, log files and Windows performance files.

That's not all. It needs to work as well with IPv6 as it does with IPv4; accept and use complex descriptions of thresholds; and can send alert notifications via e-mail, pager or text message to different individuals or groups depending on the nature of the problem, and it can escalate these notifications when the problem persists.

It also must perform root cause analysis to identify a problem device or computer that's causing a cascade of network error messages. It can correct some problems automatically by restarting a process, resetting a port or running a script. It works within virtual environments and cloud-based environments. It integrates with help desk software and with other monitoring tools. It produces useful, easy-to-understand and timely reports. It's highly scalable and reliable. And the ideal network management is easy to use.

We invited four enterprise-level network management software vendors to submit their best products for review in our Alabama lab. IBM sent us Tivoli Netcool/OMNIbus and Tivoli Network Manager IP Edition, CA Technologies sent us CA eHealth and CA NetQoS ReporterAnalyzer. And HP sent both the Windows and Linux versions of its Automated Network Management Suite. BMC initially accepted our invitation, but then offered us "a guided tour of the products in our environment" instead of sending us a product to review. (See how we conducted our test.)

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