Riverbed Technology added three new network configuration management tools -- based on a combination of acquired OPNET tools and its own technology -- to its rebranded Riverbed SteelCentral network performance management portfolio. SteelCentral NetAuditor, NetPlanner and NetCollector will provide real-time updates on network availability and troubleshooting in a single view for IT administrators.
Many network administrators are dealing with manual and overly complex configuration management tools, toggling back and forth between multiple network platforms. Riverbed's newly minted SteelCentral Network Planning and Configuration Management (NPCM) product family offers admins a complete set of network planning, auditing and configuration management tools in one unified platform, said Jim Frey, vice president for research in network management at Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates (EMA).
Riverbed SteelCentral help unify network performance data
The Riverbed SteelCentral NPCM line is based on OPNET's Network Engineering, Operations and Planning technology. These tools can help enterprises ensure any regulatory compliance requirements are being upheld, help IT handle higher volumes of traffic and plan for new changes, like data center migration, while avoiding any impact to the production network. The tools will collect and centralize network information in one place for IT, said Greg Paul, senior product marketing manager at Riverbed.
SteelCentral NetAuditor, a Web interface which is based on OPNET NetMapper and Sentinel software, has a built-in library of over 2,000 network policies and manufacturer best practices to help simplify security standards, and highlight any network device configuration errors and inconsistencies so businesses can avoid outages or speed up troubleshooting efforts. "[IT] used to have to learn about a manufacturer policy change, understand it and then manually implement it in the network to protect against a new vulnerability," Paul said. "NetAuditor provides the mechanism for dealing with these changes as they come in and apply[s] them to the entire network in an automated way."
NetAuditor also allows IT to customize internal security policies and implement them across their entire network. "At any time, [IT] can see if they are compliant with not only their internal polices, but external policies like PCI, too," he said.
SteelCentral NetPlanner, based on OPNET Network Planner software, can help IT teams mitigate risk and plan for network resiliency across hybrid architectures, despite network changes and growth over time. The technology allows IT to simulate possible consequences of a configuration change before it is implemented by using network models that combine multiple sources of data to deliver more accurate predictions of network behavior and performance. "By planning for changes before making changes, outages can be avoided and the delivery of services doesn't have to be affected," Paul said.
Both NetAuditor and NetPlanner are supported by SteelCentral NetCollector, which serves as a repository across physical, logical and virtual network elements of information about network devices and monitoring devices -- like Riverbed SteelHead appliances -- and other third-part management dashboards providing network health information. The technology is based on OPNET VNE Server software technology.
"NetCollector serves as a real-time aggregator for many different data sources, and then combines [the information] together with some analysis and reporting for NetPlanner and NetAuditor," Paul said. NetAuditor and NetPlanner can query NetCollector for information, and provide IT with the "who did what, and when" details regarding changes made to the network.
"These tools can help IT make the right configuration changes to either prevent an outage, or [can] get everything working again quickly," Paul said.
Configuration management tools: Best efforts have been good enough
IT organizations have historically not handled configuration management very well, EMA's Frey said. "It's really surprising," he said. "Larger companies usually have some form of configuration management but they don't often tie it close to their planning and engineering activities."
Network planning often is accomplished through the use of individual tools that come with the specific network equipment, or though spreadsheets and diagrams, Frey said. "These methods are helpful, but you're not really getting a sense of whether or not the architecture you are putting together is staying compliant, and not only compliant today, but every day thereafter ... changes are happening every day and it's tough to keep on top of that," he said.
With network performance or configuration management tools, many vendors will often support their own product lines, but they lack detailed information across multiple vendor tools. Large enterprises often have complex, global networks with components from multiple vendors, so this is becoming less acceptable to enterprises. Riverbed's SteelCentral line can incorporate data gathered from other third-party networking devices and equipment on the network.
"The [Riverbed SteelCentral] tools work very closely together and share the same data," Frey said. "You get some of the synergies when you have all the pieces connected, but without this, most shops won't ever see because either they don't use formal tools or they are using tools that don't share data and aren't connected."
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