Big Blue, HP Enhance Network Management Tools

With network administrators demanding more network manageability, several companies are building applications to meet those needs. "All the major vendors are trying to add manageability into their platforms," says Valerie O’Connell, analyst, the Aberdeen Group (Boston).

For instance, both IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) have enhanced their lines of network management software. IBM has released version 5.2 of its Netfinity Manager, and HP has extended its TopTools network management software to include management of hubs and switches.

Netfinity Manager 5.2 is a suite of management tools designed to work with almost all Windows platforms, as well as OS/2. New to this version are the Update Connector Manager, which helps IT departments track which versions of software users have. "To have a network operating optimally, administrators have to make sure end users have the latest software, whether its apps or drivers," says Ted Mazanec, product marketing manager, Netfinity, IBM.

Also new to version 5.2 is the Systems Management Processor, which enables administrators not only to remotely manage systems, but also to troubleshoot and fix systems from any machine with a Web browser.

Perhaps the true value of Netfinity Manager, though, is that it works with hardware and software from other vendors. Thus, administrators can use it to manage an entire network, not just IBM wares. "We have customers who use Netfinity Manager in non-IBM environments," says Susan Dovi, product manager for Netfinity systems management, IBM.

HP’s latest addition to the TopTools line, however, is designed to manage hubs and switches within a corporate network, rather than managing an entire network. The new version, when used in combination with HP OpenView, is a Web-based network-management solution that enables customers to identify and manage standards-based hubs and switches across a corporate network. In fact, TopTools for Hubs & Switches can be used to manage standards-based clients, servers, printers, hubs and switches. HP TopTools for Hubs & Switches, free of charge with HP hubs and switches, replaces HP AdvanceStack Assistant. "The ability to manage all devices from a single application significantly reduces the total cost of ownership," said Jan Bell, worldwide marketing manager for HP's Workgroup Networks Division.

The Network-Performance-Advisor feature analyzes stored traffic data and suggests ways to improve the performance of any Ethernet speed, from 10 or 100 Mbps to Gigabit Ethernet, using diagrams and what HP calls "simple terms."

"By integrating HP TopTools [with] hubs and switches, HP is providing customers with comprehensive network management capabilities," says Virginia Brooks, vice president of networking and telecommunications at the Aberdeen Group.

"HP’s strength has traditionally been in network management, so bringing TopTools to hubs and switches makes sense," says Philip Mendoza, an analyst in systems management software, IDC (Framingham, Mass.).

The applications from both IBM and HP run on their own or with popular management platforms such as HP OpenView for Windows NT, Computer Associates Int’l Inc.’s CA Unicenter, Tivoli Systems Inc.’s Tivoli TME 10 and Tivoli NetView. And since both products are browser-based, administrators can manage networks remotely, from any PC with a browser.