• United States
Neal Weinberg
Contributing writer, Foundry

Network Physics

Jun 17, 20043 mins
Data Center

* The Reviewmeister takes a look at Network Physics' NP-2000

Effective network management depends on obtaining the right baseline statistics, so we recently tested Network Physics’ NP-2000, along with Version 3.0.4 of its central console software. Its superior statistics, charts and graphics, and its ability to relate business functions to specific network links, impressed us.

We were a little troubled, however, by its slow user interface and its inability to monitor server CPU, process, memory and disk resources. We also wished it automatically could resolve problems via scripts or external programs, as some monitoring tools do.

The NP-2000 is a complex tool for traffic analysis, reporting and alerting. Listening passively via an Ethernet tap or mirrored switch port, it captures up to 750M bit/sec of network traffic, then slices and dices the results several ways to produce a plethora of graphs, charts, tables and alerts. The NP-2000’s Traffic Group Table, one of its principal reports, shows inbound and outbound traffic levels, both in megabit-per-second and total volume. Another report displays a multi-metric time series chart.

The appliance generates alerts when it detects a traffic condition that crosses a user-defined threshold. The traffic condition might be inbound or outbound Packet Throughput, Packet Traffic, Total Throughput or Total Traffic greater than a specified value, such as 50M bit/sec. The NP-2000 distinguishes between three levels of alerts: minor, major and critical.

For the error conditions we created in the lab, the unit logged the errors and, optionally, sent us e-mail notes and issued SNMP alerts. However, the NP-2000 lacks the ability to perform corrective actions, such as sending a port reset command to a switch or telling a server to reboot.

The NP-2000’s primary interface, which you download from within the appliance, is a Java-based central management console for configuring and viewing statistics, charts, graphs and reports. The unit also has a Web server that emits browser pages for viewing some (but not all) reports and performing some basic configuration tasks. A one-time-use serial port ASCII terminal interface lets you assign the unit an IP address at installation time.

Installing the NP-2000 and its console software was straightforward. The documentation consists of Adobe Acrobat PDF files, online help and a brief, printed installation manual.

The NP-2000 uses moving averages, standard deviations and other quantifications to produce a wealth of charts, graphs and tables to help you manage your network. It could be a statistics lover’s dream – and we’d recommend it wholeheartedly – if it was more responsive, had a corrective action feature and gathered performance metrics from servers.

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