Start-up promises speedy problem resolution

* Xangati's rapid problem identification

In the realm of network management, knowing there's a performance problem is not enough -- knowing where to look for the cause of the problem is what separates the pros from the novices.

Time can be wasted trying to track down the source of a problem across network, server, storage, desktop, applications and other IT domains. And while many vendors promise to alert on IT events, faults and performance problems, industry watchers say the technology doesn't always deliver.

"Most network management tools are focused on telling you there is a problem but not what the problem is," says Zeus Kerravala, Yankee Group Senior Vice President of Enterprise Research.

A start-up coming out of stealth mode this week says its technology can speed network problem detection, and in turn, help network managers reduce mean time to repair.

Xangati, founded in June 2006 and based in Cupertino, Calif., says its rapid problem identification (RPI) appliances can pinpoint the source of problems across a network enterprise in a fraction of the time it typically takes IT operations staff to troubleshoot. The technology is said to be able to discover all endpoints -- desktops, servers, storage devices, VoIP phones, PDAs and more -- as well as the applications running on the endpoint.

The company says its appliance uses "flow information (NetFlow, sFlow, cFlow) or packets available from existing enterprise switches and routers to automatically discover all the IP endpoints." The technology then builds a topology of endpoints and the application usage across the endpoints. Following that, the appliance builds a profile of each endpoint using variables such as bit rate (in and out), packet rate (in and out), burstiness, interactions, endpoint affinity, application affinity, location affinity and time affinity. The profiles provide the appliance with typical "day-in-the-life" scenarios for endpoints, which helps the technology more quickly discern when behavior strays from normal. The appliance can then correlate behavior symptoms across time of day, location and application usage to drill down to the exact cause and alert staff to any abnormal occurrences.

Company executives say this approach to network management -- monitoring traffic flows from switches and routers -- can enable IT staff to more quickly spot performance problems rather than waiting for monitoring systems to collect the data needed to pinpoint the source of problems.

"Instead of having an IT person locked into watching a monitoring screen, our product continually compares the profile we have to the current behavior and alerts IT staff when anomalies occur," says David Messina, vice president of marketing.

Kerravala says the RPI technology could provide network managers with an alternative to the status quo -- event and fault management products available today. "Xangati focuses on identifying what the problem is, which is what takes up most of the troubleshooting time," Kerravala says.

While the company says it's officially coming out of stealth mode this week and just introducing its technology now, it seems Xangati last fall had launched a product dubbed Falcon, which was described as an endpoint performance and behavioral analysis product designed to spot problems on application delivery networks. The technology is most likely the same, tweaked a bit based on customer rollouts, considering the company has customers such as the County of Bernalillo, New Mexico, at the ready.

“Almost right away, my team could see the sources of multiple complex application responsiveness issues, which included a sluggish e-mail server, an intermittent DNS failure, and an endpoint hijacked for spamming," said Paul Roybal, CIO, Bernalillo County, New Mexico, in a Xangati press release. "Already our problem identification cycles have shrunk by at least one-third, and trouble tickets are being closed 20% faster.”

Available now, RPI appliances come in three flavors, one appliance can manage networks with up to 100,000 endpoints. Pricing starts at $35,000 for entry-level products.

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