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Notes from IP'07

More of the exhibitors speak.

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"What our customers wanted was more real-time," said Terry Slattery, the founder and CTO of Netcordia, whose NetMRI appliance works as a kind of diagnostic scanner, checking that network devices such as switches and routers are configured correctly, and recommending 'best practice' set-ups.

"They said 'When I fix it, I want to see NetMRI reflect that quickly' - they wanted confirmation that they'd done the correct thing."

Slattery was speaking as Netcordia announced NetMRI 2.3, which includes some of those real-time features and also adds support for wireless LANs. The device now scans the network more frequently and can also collect and analyse data that can't be found by scanning, or require different forms of polling, such as network events.

"For a good view of the network, you need configurations, but you also need operational information so you can get at non-network data such as server configurations, and then there are some events only available in real-time, such as SNMP traps," he said. "For example, compliance wants configuration changes tracked and recorded within 10 minutes."

Slattery said that he invented NetMRI because, while you can do the same things with a network monitoring device or framework, he found they didn't do it in a way that worked for him as a network engineer.

"Their view is that every network is different, so you need consultancy to configure their tools," he argued. "But in reality, if you follow the design guides, your network will look remarkably like others in your space - the basic design principles and misconfigurations are the same."

Slattery said that in order to handle events, Netcordia has adopted the Splunk event collector, which can collect multi-line events and store them in a database - it is also available as a free download for small networks.

"We partnered with them to use that and marry it with other things, such as device groups, so you can list things by core or branch, say, to determine the severity of a problem. It works in minutes - people will say they want it to be instant, but in reality, minutes is how fast they can actually respond to an alert."

He added that as well as the basics of archiving your network configurations and checking that they match their policies, NetMRI users have found extra uses for the technology, such as auditing to identify end-of-life devices and move them out of the core.

"We do have reconfiguration tools for the network team to use," he said. "There's no automated remediation yet, though some customers are using scripting to automate switch firmware upgrades, for example."


The plans of Google and Microsoft for remote applications have attracted much attention, but they are far from the only players - another that can't be ignored is Adobe. Its pitch here is Adobe AIR, a cross-platform framework that provides a run-time environment for what it calls rich Internet applications, or RIAs.

One of the first of these RIAs is a groupware application from rich-media specialist CommuniGate, called Pronto! This combines an email client with calendaring and UC features such as chat and SIP-based VOIP.

Simon Paton, CommuniGate's MD, said that one way to look at AIR is as a more interactive form of Flash, and he said that like Flash files, AIR applications can run off-line as well as on-line. That potentially gives it a big advantage over the web-based (or even Web 2.0 based!) technologies used in most other on-line applications.

"It downloads the app when you log in, but then it persists when you're not connected, storing your off-line work until the next time you connect," he explained.

Because it's an application, not just an HTML page, there's no need to regularly refresh the whole page from the server, he said, adding: "It could cut the cost of supporting thick clients."

Pronto! is currently in beta testing, with a free public trial available. General availability is planned for 2008, Paton said .


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