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Waking up with NetMRI net analysis appliance

Jan 16, 20063 mins
Data Center

* The network engineer's cup of morning Joe

In a market with as much innovation as the current IT management industry, it’s all but impossible to find a product that does something truly unique in itself, that’s also valuable (i.e. worth doing) and complementary to a whole host of other solutions. But I can say that pretty safely about Netcordia’s network analysis appliance NetMRI.

My personal analogy for NetMRI, having seen it first hand and spoken with customers, is that it’s the network engineer’s version of a really good cup of coffee. It provides a morning scorecard based on the last 24-hours of activity across the networked infrastructure that combines a range of information with some best-practice-based analytics so that network managers can orient themselves more productively for the coming day. It is truly an appliance – no fuss, no muss – virtually installing in 30 minutes. And from an ROI perspective, Netcordia claims – and I have seen this to be true – substantial benefits in terms of operational efficiencies gained in environments with even modestly scaled IT infrastructures.

NetMRI is a network-engineering product pure and simple, although with some work on reporting, its “wake up cup of coffee” could be extended to support other, less purely technical roles. But having said that, the breadth of the environments and conditions it covers is distinctive. These include virtual LANs, VoIP, network device configuration, wireless access security, video or time-sensitive IP paths, IP routes and subnets, and switch and router security. NetMRI is also an effective way for capturing basic network inventory information with accuracy in terms of device type.

Taking just two of these examples – device configuration and VoIP – the functionality is surprisingly robust for an all-in-one appliance and perhaps even more to the point, makes sense. Device configuration policy automates analysis based on changes to critical network devices. In one environment, this was used to check on which devices were suitable for a move from Spanning Tree to Rapid Spanning Tree, for example. In another, to assess Access Control Lists (ACL) for inclusions or exclusions. But auditing configuration changes are of course valuable to engineers in a whole host of ways. In VoIP, an add-on module, NetMRI analyzes call detail records (CDR), along with SNMP data from routers, switches, gateways, etc., and can compare configuration and QoS status across the call path. It also tests for jitter, latency and packet loss, so it can be used to both assess network readiness for VoIP and monitor production VoIP environments.

But as sensible and easy to use as NetMRI is, let’s also be clear about what it’s not. It’s not an ongoing monitoring capability designed for real-time management. It’s not a “fix” capability designed to actively repair problems. Nor is it a soup-to-nuts capability for network performance management and network optimization. Finally, it is network focused and not directed at application specific interdependencies in any real way. It is, on the other hand, a very complete, effective and easy-to-use analytic tool to orient network engineers based on 24-hour assessments. In this it is, as far as I’m aware, unique and unequaled.

NetMRI comes in various models, starting with the NetMRI campus model for up to 200 routers and switches for $24,995. As mentioned, the VoIP Analysis is an add-on module at 20% of base appliance price.