Network Service Modeling

Posing A New Philosophy For Risk Management In The Workgroup Age

Using a series of "what-if" scenariosto determine effects on performance without affecting the production network is an ideawhose time has come. Network Service Modeling gives administrators the ability to predicthow network service levels will be impacted by the in-evitability of change.

Network Service Modeling is based on the technology of network simulation, whichreplicates in software the dynamic behavior of an entire network, including traffic andprotocols. Most enterprise networks experience almost constant change brought on by adynamic user base, technology migration and new bandwidth-hungry applications. And withthose changes come uncertainty and the risk that required service levels will be violated.Until recently, many organizations adopted a policy of risk management that accepted atleast several hours of network downtime to accommodate change.

Increasingly, the success of corporate business units is linked with the ITorganization's ability to deliver continuous, uninterrupted service at guaranteedperformance levels. This can be seen in the evolution of service level agreements thatfinancially penalize service providers for not meeting their commitments and by theintroduction of policy-based management to control the allocation of bandwidth. The costof the network going down or service levels being violated for just a few minutes can besignificant. For IT organizations, risk management is taking on a new meaning.

Change And Effects

There are two ways to ensure that change will not negatively impact the network. First,significantly over-engineer the network by adopting the fastest technologies and operatingat well below capacity. While this policy of risk avoidance was once acceptable, it is nowcost prohibitive.

Second, anticipate the impact of change using Network Service Modeling andappropriately evolve the network to ensure that service level requirements are maintained.This approach allows the IT organization to proactively manage risk and optimizeprovisioning with confidence.

So, why aren't more organizations using Network Service Modeling? Until now, modelingtools have been poorly integrated with the network management process, too difficult touse effectively and were too costly. Most IT organizations do not have the time todedicate staff to network planning, but must absorb this function within their otheractivities.

To overcome those obstacles, HP and MIL 3 have signed an exclusive technology andmarketing agreement to integrate MIL 3's OPNET Planner 5.0 with HP OpenView's (HPOV's)Network Node Manager and NetMetrix products.

Driving The Baseline

The integration of OPNET Planner and HPOV addresses one of the most challenging aspectsof Network Service Modeling -- initializing the model to accurately represent the existingnetwork, an essential step before examining "what-if" scenarios.

HP's Network Node Manager provides the topology and device information used by OPNETPlanner to automatically create the network model. HP's NetMetrix provides RMON2 trafficdata to automatically create a baseline of current network traffic.

With the baseline in place, relocating a node in the model can then result in themodeled traffic being appropriately re-routed. It also becomes easy to scale the NetMetrixtraffic to see the impact of growth, as well as "copy and paste" traffic intoother areas of the network.

HP and MIL 3 have created a project-based workflow for OPNET Planner to manage projectand scenario information. Scenarios can be compared and potential network bottlenecksquickly identified, which facilitates configuration and provisioning decisions. Topologyinformation within OPNET Planner maintains the same structure as in Network Node Managerto provide continuity and a natural flow between the products.

OPNET Planner makes it possible to consider the impact of change:

"What if we add 1000 users to the network?"

"What if we migrate to ATM or Frame Relay?"

"What if we deploy SAP?"

It's A Confidence Game

How can a user have confidence that Network Service Modeling results are accurate? MIL3 has pioneered modeling and simulation in the networking R&D community for twelveyears. Virtually all network equipment manufacturers use OPNET modeling products in theirdesign process. OPNET protocol models are provided for peer review and examined bythousands of specialists each year. The same core technologies and models developed forthis demanding environment are used in OPNET Planner.

MIL 3 and HP's goal is to make Network Service Modeling a natural extension of networkmanagement. The future will bring even tighter integration among OPNET Planner, NetworkNode Manager and NetMetrix, as well as support for data from other HPOV products.

--Marc Cohen is CEO of MIL 3. Steve Johnson is HP's Nte Metrix Project Manager.