Three Views on OpenView

Enterprise system management is such a hot topic, and HP OpenView such a dominant player in this space, that third-party vendors are integrating their products with OpenView, extending its functionality. Agilent Technologies, OPNET Technologies and Network Appliance are among the vendors that have recently introduced new, integrated solutions.

Enterprise system management is such a hot topic, and HP OpenView such a dominant player in this space, that third-party vendors are integrating their products with OpenView, extending its functionality. Agilent Technologies, OPNET Technolgies and Network Appliance are among the vendors that have recently introduced new, integrated solutions.

Agilent, formerly a division of HP, offers Firehunter, which is not a system management product per se, but service assurance software that offers a view of the enterprise different from that provided by OpenView. By integrating tightly with OpenView, it opens up an entirely new dimension of management to IT professionals. OPNET and Network Appliance offer software that integrates predictive management and storage management capabilities, respectively, with OpenView.

Firehunter: Managing Internet Services

While OpenView provides a topological view of the environment for ISPs and large enterprises, Firehunter/Pro, a former HP product and now owned by Agilent Technologies, provides a service view. Firehunter/Pro has been enhanced with a new e-commerce application that provides continuous realtime monitoring of e-commerce site performance. Firehunter/Pro monitors basic Internet services, such as e-mail Web service, news, and so on, while Firehunter/e-Commerce extends those capabilities to monitor Internet services for business relying on e-commerce. "We’re expanding beyond ISPs to embrace all the dotcoms," says Larry Robinson, Senior Product Manager for Agilent’s Firehunter Business.

Although Firehunter works with system management software other than OpenView, it is integrated tightly with OpenView Network Node Manager, allowing for easy navigation between the products. "When Firehunter detects a service level fault as seen by the customer, it can launch right into OpenView Node Manager, which can drill right down to the router, or component level," Robinson explains. "[German auto maker] BMW, for example, uses OpenView for system management and has adopted Firehunter for Internet services management, in this case, e-mail management."

Agilent touts the new Firehunter/e-Commerce as the first solution that allows ISPs hosting electronic business-to-consumer storefronts to continuously monitor performance of the entire infrastructure that supports e-commerce. Robinson says the new release offers three key features. It monitors from the top down – meaning from the customer down. It monitors infrastructure performance by monitoring the components behind the firewall in the service delivery channel. And it displays the performance of e-commerce sites in terms most helpful to users.

Monitoring in Realtime

In operating from the top down, Firehunter/e-Commerce monitors the front-end through transaction tests. It uses synthetic transactions, records all the steps in the transaction, and plays the steps back as a test against the system.

Take, for example, a site selling printers. Firehunter/e-Commerce monitors the transactions in realtime, showing information on the number of people accessing the site, the number searching for printers, the number of printers in shopping carts, and the transactions involving financing and search. It uses color-coded icons to display the information and every five minutes, the user can view specific transactions to detect where performance is slow. That allows e-commerce sites to catch performance problems before they occur and isolate them quickly, because, as Robinson says, "A delay of eight to 10 seconds means a lost sale."

Competitors use synthetic testing mechanisms that are directly linked to a page. That means whenever the page changes – and that could be several times a day – the test changes. Firehunter/e-Commerce, on the other hand, allows users to go back and rerun synthetic tests to detect changes in pages. "Tests," he says, "are always in synch with the content."

Besides monitoring from the top down, the software links to the infrastructure. Although the user sees the front end, behind that are "a whole bunch of other systems," Robinson points out. These include the network, servers, database accesses, and so on, are part of the service delivery channel. "We provide a realtime portrayal of response times," Robinson says. "When things start to slow down, service providers can see where problems are occurring and avoid catastrophic occurrences." Firehunter/e-Commerce also links the infrastructure to the user experience by providing information users need, such as authorized sales rates, dollar rates of new order and dollar rates of declines. Users can then compare transaction rates say, at 9:55 a.m. on Tuesday with rates at 9:55 a.m. the following Tuesday.

The new application is a 70 percent out-of-the-box solution. "It gets ISPs and enterprises up and running fast," Robinson says. But it can also be adapted to the different suites of software running on big e-commerce sites. Built to the BroadVision architecture, Firehunter/e-Commerce can be customized for offerings from Microsoft, IBM, and others. Firehunter/e-Commerce runs on UNIX (including Solaris and HP-UX), Windows NT and will support Linux in its second release, scheduled for the second half of this year. Firehunter/Pro already operates on Linux.

ITDecisionGuru: Predictive Management

OPNET Technologies develops modeling and predictive network solutions that provide forward-looking visibility into the design and implementation of the network infrastructure. This allows IT managers to determine whether the infrastructure will support either existing or proposed service level agreements (SLAs). By using the software, IT managers can predict what will happen if a new application is brought on board. How will the new application affect the network load? Will it affect existing SLAs, transforming them from a current state of compliance into a state of violation?

"Our solution is highly complementary to the rest of the OpenView solution set," says Steve Johnson, Vice President of Strategic Marketing for OPNET. "We have a very deep level of integration by taking the real-world topology information of the network infrastructure that comes out of OpenView [information on network interconnections and network devices], and we use that information by connecting directly to the OpenView server.

"Then we bring in the information to establish what we call the baseline model of the infrastructure. At this point, IT managers have a mirror image of the production environment. And they can begin to make modifications to explore what-if scenarios to determine the effect on overall application performance if they were to, for example, increase of the capacity of the links among various remote offices. Or they could explore changing from a frame relay technology and moving to a higher capacity ATM backbone and the effect that would have. They could also explore whether such a move would be cost-effective. Would they see a good return on their investment in the new technology?"

OPNET’s customers for IT DecisionGuru are both enterprises and service providers, with the customer base split evenly between the two. But Johnson says the number of service provider customers is growing rapidly. And OPNET is, he says, introducing more and more capabilities to enable service providers, especially ASPs, to deliver IP-based services with a concentrated focus on the performance of an individual application. In fact, OPNET just released a solution for the service provider arena – Version 7.0 of IT DecisionGuru.

Diagnosis of Problems

IT DecisionGuru Version 7.0 boasts several new features, including AppDoctor. AppDoctor takes IT DecisionGuru a step further by automating the interpretation of performance data and providing synthesized results. Previous versions of the software provided information on performance, which users then analyzed. AppDoctor provides automated diagnosis, as well as guidance, or suggestions, on the root cause of performance problems.

Version 7.0 also aligns IT DecisionGuru with what Johnson calls "a new wave of technology" – wireless. The software now boasts increased capabilities that extend its usefulness beyond the wired network to offer the same kinds of predictive analysis for both wireless and wireline types of networks.

Because of increasing interest in another relatively new arena – what Johnson calls "the known quality of service levels" – IT DecisionGuru 7.0 allows IT managers to perform predictive analysis in the context of QoS mechanisms. "In many cases the routers and many other devices within the network have certain QoS protocols engaged to guarantee delivery of certain kinds of application traffic with a priority," Johnson explains. "That priority is now accounted for within the OPNET environment. Things like voice-over IP must be assigned a higher priority than e-mail, for example. IT DecisionGuru now provides information not only on how protocol implementations affect performance of time-sensitive or delay-sensitive applications, like voice or video, but forecasts what happens when the IT manager enables a QoS mechanism within the infrastructure. In other words, the software analyzes how that will affect applications that don’t have a delay issue, like e-mail or the Web. It determines whether the Web will become very, very slow because you’ve turned on QoS to accommodate voice or whether the SLA for your ERP application will suddenly become non-compliant."

A New Module

OPNET recently released a new module for IT DecisionGuru – Application Characterization Environment (ACE). ACE allows users to import application traces from leading network analyzers, like Network Associates’ Sniffer, for example, and then to break down multitier transactions, such as Web-based order entry, and provide a graphical representation of client, network and server interactions. IT DecisionGuru can then simulate the future performance of the application when deployed. That allows IT managers and application developers to isolate the sources of potential performance bottlenecks and verify whether the corrective actions they plan to take will actually correct the problem.

To demonstrate how ACE can forestall missteps, Johnson refers to an unnamed company he will identify only as a "large computer manufacturer in the U.S." Faced with a slow application involving the exchange of information between the United States and somewhere in the Asia Pacific, the company’s first reaction was to point to the network. Why not increase bandwidth by upgrading the intercontinental circuits? But, then the company found the network wasn’t the problem after all. ACE discovered that the TCP parameters were configured incorrectly. As a result, the exchange of information was being throttled. According to Johnson, "The OPNET solution allowed the company to identify the root cause of the performance issue and make modifications to the TCP parameters. This company spent zero dollars and ultimately got a substantial increase in performance."

ApplianceWatch: Managing Storage Applications

With storage management such a hot issue, the market is seeing more and more products that allow IT managers to manage data from a central location or single point of control. One new solution consists of a family of products from Network Appliance, a provider of NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices.

Network Appliance’s ApplianceWatch family of products aims to offer companies investment protection by allowing them to manage NetApp files and NetCache appliances through existing system management tools. Network Appliance chose HP OpenView as the first system and network management framework with which to integrate its new products.

The integration of ApplianceWatch with HP OpenView allows companies to deploy the Network Appliance products in an existing OpenView environment. "Before, companies with a central management policy in place with their administrators had more trouble finding where problems were," says Dave Becker, Manager of Strategic Alliances in the Systems Management Group at Network Appliance. "The integration allows users to bring Network Appliance products into the same policies and governing practices they apply in their infrastructures."

Network Appliance offers multiprotocol NAS devices that allow users to communicate to a central source for their data in their data languages. That means appliance and client applications can make use of NetApp filers from anywhere on the network and access data via the appropriate file protocol – HTTP for the Web, NFS for UNIX, and CIFS for Windows.

"Companies now have in their data centers rack-mountable environments that must scale quickly," Becker says. "We provide scalability of capacity for those environments, scaling from roughly 200 GB all the way up to about 1.5 TB for a single system.

"Here’s where OpenView and Network Appliance come together … In the customer environment, the need is to be able to manage and maintain the cost of administration as the number of units scales," Becker explains. "With ApplianceWatch, users can scale the number of systems they manage under the auspices of HP OpenView, which allows them to monitor the events related to our filer and caching products from a central console. That keeps administrative costs down. And our filers and net cache products can be seen right there at the network operations center."

The integration of ApplianceWatch into OpenView works this way. If there’s a problem with a filer, the filer does discovery and then allows the user to bring up Network Appliance’s management tools. The responsibility of HP OpenView is to locate the problem and identify the machine experiencing the trouble. Then the system calls up NetApp FilerView, a Web-based management tool, to change the configuration of the filer or do whatever is necessary to solve the problem.

The ApplianceWatch products obviously are not for the small shop. They are designed for large enterprises and ISPs that buy a lot of infrastructure equipment. Some ISPs are deploying the products in caching structures at all the points of presence they want to monitor centrally. In fact, Becker says that nine out of the 10 top ISPs are Net Appliance customers.

ApplianceWatch for HP OpenView 1.0 is available now on Windows NT, Sun Solaris and HP-UX systems.