Midtier management tools register high marks

Argent, HP earn top honors for sophisticated monitoring and flexible alerts

Midtier management tools make the grade.

The ideal management and monitoring tool efficiently and accurately discovers servers, clients, routers, switches and other devices. It revealingly and helpfully displays a map of the discovered nodes. It faithfully checks for connectivity problems, and it intelligently notices performance problems.

It provides alerts via e-mail or pager, and it can alert multiple people until the problem is fixed. In some cases, it can automatically solve a problem by restarting a program, running a script or triggering an external program. It produces useful reports that show the health of your network, measures use of the network and its components over time, and forecasts trends to help you plan the network's future capacities. The ideal monitoring tool is reliable, secure and easy to use.

How we tested network-management devices

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It's a pretty tall order. While we invited more than two dozen vendors to participate in this Clear Choice Test, five vendors stepped up, entering a total of six products.

We tested Argent Software's Extended Technologies 8.0a, HP's Mercury SiteScope 8.5, HP's OpenView Network Node Manager 7.51, OpenView Internet Services 6.0 and OpenView Operations Manager 7.5, Netcordia's NetMRI Enterprise Network Analysis Appliance 2.0 and NetMRI Operations Center, Netmon's Netmon Professional Edition 4.5 and Network General's NetVigil Enterprise 4.2 SP1 in our lab (see How we tested network-management devices).

Because "midrange" is such a broad term, we subdivided these tools into two tiers according to base price. We set the first price range between $2,000 and $30,000, and the second between $30,000 and $60,000.

SiteScope, Extended Technologies, NetMRI and Netmon fell into the lower-cost tier, while OpenView and NetVigil are in the more expensive one. In general, the more expensive products are more comprehensive in the diversity of devices they support, more scalable and more mature.

Argent's Extended Technologies picked up our Clear Choice honors in the first tier, while HP's OpenView came out on top in the more expensive tier. Both products weighed in with highly accurate discovery tools, excellent monitoring capabilities, high-quality user interfaces and useful reports.

Nance runs Network Testing Labs and is the author of Introduction to Networking, 4th edition, and Client/Server LAN Programming. He can be reached at barryn@erols.com.

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