by Keean Persaud
Published on 10 February 2012
This review constitutes an analysis based on a product demonstration and software review by qualified system software experts at Eval-Source. The demonstration Eval-Source received from the vendor was based on its own custom vendor script, designed to validate and/or disprove vendors' claims. The script was specifically prepared to identify functionalities and form an impartial analysis and software review for a Network Management Solution.
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The IT service and network management market is rapidly changing. Just a few years ago, these types of software solutions were not available to SMB due to the complexities and lack of infrastructure to support the software and price barriers. ManageEngine has solved this problem by bringing an enterprise level tool to any organization with network management requirements.
IT service management challenges are difficult to quantify without the use of management software that captures the tangibles to aid in capacity planning and determining budgets for IT spending. Organizations that bill their internal IT to other departments can accurately assign costs, charge the appropriate amount and even realize IT as a profit center with the correct tracking and validation to prove IT time on repairs and other IT related tasks.
Network IT management can be conducted in several areas: where there is a lack of administrative and compliance standards through auditing, where approvals and monitoring exist or do not exist, where distributed network systems involve many systems, servers, databases, applications, edge network and distribution devices and WAN connectivity and where there is a lack of automation for IT services.
Areas in which the OpManager can assist the organization include; control of the complexities of distributed global systems, providing quantifiable results for accurate capacity planning by differentiating between projected use and actual use (data throughput throughout the network), eliminating server bandwidth bottlenecks, managing network efficiencies, identifying service degradations, increasing QoS for IT and Service departments, brings a holistic view to the IT infrastructure, can assist in identification and management of IT assets and identifying over or under-utilized devices. Visibility into these processes and having the data to validate organizations can effectively calculate actual IT spend and adjust accordingly to whether more is required or whether cut backs should be actioned and extraneous services and equipment decommissioned.
OpManager is an IT management tool that targets small to medium size organizations with less than ten thousand devices to manage, and which are non-vertical specific. Common customers of OpManager reside within diverse verticals such as IT Services/Consulting, Government/NGO's, Banking/Finance, Military/Defense, Legal/Judiciary, Educational institutions, Healthcare/Pharmaceuticals/Medical, Manufacturing/Engineering, Insurance, Logistics, Web Hosting/ISP/IP Telephony and others.
The average size of organizations using OpManager varies. The average customer spend is approximately $5000-10,000 a year. OpManager can manage a network of devices ranging from 50-5000 and above/higher. As the majority of medium sized organizations employ a network to manage their IT requirements, practically any of these companies can find value in this tool. In terms of budget, a company looking for network management software can use this tool on the low end for $1995, However, Manage Engine has made OpManager's pricing and functionality flexible enough for large enterprise organizations to utilize the tool as well. This is how OpManager competes with the larger solutions in this market. It offers equal in some cases greater functionality that is scalable, easier to implement and more intuitive
OpManager is available as on-premise application -. OpManager Essential Edition targets small and medium-sized organizations, while the Enterprise Edition suits larger organizations.
When installing the 30-day free evaluation trial all functionality is enabled and customers are not required to rebuild their networks once they activate the software. There is no difference in functionality for the Standalone vs. the Enterprise Edition other than the scalability of the Enterprise Edition, which can handle far more devices and interfaces. For growing organizations, the option to scale to the Enterprise Edition is available without having to rebuild the network, mappings, devices, applications etc.
The enterprise edition offers more scalability than the Essential Edition with a few more features such as distributed-probe central architecture and fail over support using MS SQL.
Pricing starts at $1995.00 a year a ranges depending on network complexity of number of devices and which edition is selected. Due to the complicated nature and the differences between customers and networks ManageEngine recommends requesting a quote to your specific network capacity thereby the customer can obtain an actual quote for their service. Quick configuration quotes are available by filling out the form to define network specifics.
OpManager is 100% web-based software that does not require a client install from the company on each machine in order to run, as is the case with most software in the space, which requires client installation in each instance. A key area of flexibility is the multitude of standards and protocols it utilizes throughout the application. These multiple standards allow the creation of dynamic multi-layered network diagrams, real-time information and multi-vendor device support that can generate accurate and dynamic network planning diagrams.
OpManager is a complete, end-to-end network monitoring software that offers advanced fault and performance management functionality across critical IT resources such as routers, WAN links, switches, firewalls, VoIP call paths, physical servers, virtual servers, domain controllers & other IT infrastructure devices. The OpManager interface provides real-time views of availability statistics, as well as detailed monitoring and analysis of data from switches, routers, servers and any other SNMP-enabled devices. Features are well laid out as to the functional roadmap of the application. Each process and feature is chronologically arranged and builds upon the complexity of the previous function. Combining these varied tasks and operations is a main strength for OpManager
The chronological structure of complementary features builds on application usefulness whereby organizations can follow a preset workflow which may be accommodated due to the flexibility of the application. The architecture of the solution allows organizations to cater to specific business needs which they deem as most important within their network infrastructure
OpManager is Windows and Linux installable and is bundled with a Web-Services and MySQL database for easy installation. Customers do not need to install an SQL instance to run the software, so organizations can be up running their network monitoring software within minutes. It also has the capability to configure existing SQL databases, which serves as a quick add-on to leverage existing infrastructure.
The functional areas of OpManager include: network discovery and mapping, availability and uptime monitoring, traffic and utilization monitoring, Cisco monitoring, network device health monitoring, network traffic maps, WAN RTT monitoring, network traffic analysis, VoIP monitoring ,and network configuration management.
Below, each functional area is described along with the associated features of the module. The functional description provides a brief synopsis of each functional component within each major category of OpManager.
- Network Discovery and Mapping - In order to expedite usage, OpManager has a network discovery feature that identifies the devices within the network. The methods to detect the devices include: IP range, CIDR (is an Internet Protocol (IP) address allocation and route aggregation methodology) or a file that can be imported as a CSV file. To further speed setup, the application comes with automatic device and interface mappings as "off the shelf" capabilities and supports custom device templates and infrastructure groups. Dashboards are created immediately after network discovery and monitoring begins automatically. Network discovery offers three options: lists, maps and dashboard views. The mapping views offer several types of display options through which to see devices such as business, custom, Google Maps, subnet masks, infrastructure groups or through an automatic layer 2 topology map.
Once a network diagram is built through the discovery, manual addition of devices and importation of the CSV for all devices complete the network profile. OpManager automates static network modeling diagrams and adapts to create a dynamic model that allows visualization of the entire network, reports real-time data statuses, permits customization by allowing the user to choose the network's seed device and network layout and can import diagrams into MS Visio. Options such as Radial Tree, Balloon Tree, custom and Node Link diagrams are available to simplify level 2 and level 3 network diagrams. The network mapping utility allows the administrator to identify any network problems at-a-glance, drill down to the problematic device or to the link from the network maps, understand the relationship between the parent and the dependent devices, identify the intensity of incidents, prioritize network faults and proactively start remediation actions directly from the console.
This area of the application is highly versatile with respect to how data can be represented. Options include business view, custom maps, Google maps, subnet wise and two-layer topology, and network traffic maps. Each one of these views provide unique business intelligence (BI) in a different manner to ease troubleshooting whether it is a network, server, application or bandwidth issue can easily be identified and mitigated without much disruption to users.
Figure 1 - Network Discovery and Mapping Options
The figure above represents a few of the mapping options available. This shows the WAN within a country, the business view of the network diagram and then a representation of each device within the network within that network. By using, the Google API with network maps, companies can monitor each individual node of enterprise network and the current status. Depicted is another variation of visual tools that OpManager offers.
Figure 2 - Google Map and status of each node within the network
Availability and Uptime Monitoring OpManager offers organizations several tools and modules that organizations need to monitor such as global operations, customer support and business operations may all be impacted if your network fails. Modules that assist organizations in monitoring and uptime are device monitoring, interface and port availability, WAN link availability, application or service availability and network traffic and utilization monitoring. These modules help organizations identify any broken links, network nodes, devices, applications and even broken processes that organizations monitor to comply with quality of service (QoS and SLA's) requirements whether internal or external. Companies can be proactive in their network availability to mitigate any risk of network downtime. These are especially useful for organizations that spike network traffic and are required to balance excess traffic. These tools allow administrators to see where there are problems, identify potential areas of inefficiencies and take a proactive approach to keep the network up and running 24 x 7.
These modules provide organizations a granular level of visibility throughout the network whether it is a device, server and any network component through to the Windows services running on a server. Identification of broken links, components or services can quickly provide the information to IT to rectify any potential problems before they become full-blown issues. The granularity of the software helps identify the areas of failure or broken links, inefficiencies and monitors all parts of the network even to the global level of the network. This feature is especially useful for organizations that support multiple countries where a localized WAN may be affected and the central Administrators are not aware of the problem. The dashboard feature of network traffic analysis provides a quick visual alert for easy identification that can be acted upon immediately when problems and outages occur.
The server performance management portion of the application covers all server related monitoring and processing control. This includes server monitoring, virtual monitoring (both VMware and Hyper V), services, Windows services, eventlog and website monitoring.
Network Performance Management - Network performance management has changed over the years where administrators are responsible for all aspects of the network from managing hardware, software, monitoring levels of service of incoming connections to becoming vendor managers. OpManager offers companies many tools to monitor network performance management, Cisco equipment, routers, switches, WAN RTT, VoIP monitoring, network traffic analysis and network configuration management
By monitoring and identifying areas, IT can use visual tools through specifically created dashboards to analyze, automate and troubleshoot potential network problems. By allowing users to create individual dashboards for most network performance aspects provides a visual display of potential problem areas, broken links applications, faulty hardware, application usage and VoIP QoS to quickly troubleshoot any IT complications. IT understands which part of the network has failed or is compromised definitive action can be taken immediately to correct the errors.
A convenient feature that OpManger contains through the NetFlow plug-in is that it supports multiple protocols and Cisco NBAR technology. Users have the option to modify links to interfaces and select different time segments to compare. These what-if scenarios allow mapping of applications by combining IP address, ports and protocols to create full real-time visibility of data usage and a traffic analysis overview of the network. By creating these network traffic maps IT can use this information as key decision support information to determine IT spending. The network traffic maps apply to all portions of the network and service monitoring to easily identify and give admins a visual overview of their network for quick diagnosis. OpManager provides the tools to troubleshoot which network component is affected. The area where OpManager excels is the categorization of network delineation. These areas are networks, servers and applications and are further segmented into network maps, link and component level problems. These capabilities are handy when troubleshooting network problems, virus breaches, worms and other security vulnerabilities. OpManager can be used to isolate whether it is a broken component within the network or some anomaly that garners excessive bandwidth usage. Administrators can use the tools to reroute requests and load balance the network operations thereby stabilizing the network. Consistent network usage cannot only reduce IT costs but can also speed up the network through operational optimizations. OpManager provides the necessary tools that admins can automate troubleshooting procedures through the accommodating workflow feature. The results provided from network performance management can be mainly used for decision support and capacities planning of the network in order for allocate how much budget should be allotted to network bandwidth.
Network Device Health Monitoring is the section of the application that includes monitoring of routers, switches, firewalls, wireless access points etc. KPI's such as quality of service by balancing throughput, committed information rate (CIR) and burst rate with congestion, buffer statistics, response time, discards, CRC errors, collisions, CPU utilization and memory utilization can be monitored through this component. These measurements may be used to optimize bandwidth allocations, ensure high network availability, visualize and resolve WAN link problems, observe current trends to plan future capacity and spot troublesome hardware that needs to be serviced. Protocols such as SNMP⁄ WMI⁄ CLI are used to monitor processes across all servers within the organization. Windows, Linux, Solaris, UNIX, HP, UX, IBM, AIX, VMware ESX/ ESXi, operate within OpManager's configurable dashboard for services monitoring.
Network Traffic Maps - This section of the application basically allows the user to see who and what is using network traffic in terms of bandwidth. It also permits viewing of whether the applications slow down, threats are detected (such as viruses and malware), possible security breaches, what users are consuming the most bandwidth through conversations or downloading unwanted corporate content and if any actions are required to fix a potential problem or trigger the proper alerts. Data points illustrate traffic in and out, details such as speed, volume, packets and total bandwidth usage are identified.
The network traffic maps are enabled through using NetFlow from Cisco devices and any timeframe can be created for comparison. The reports created can then be exported to Excel, CSV or PDF format for consumption.
The figure below represents a graphical usage of bandwidth over the entire network. By examining the legend on the lower right, IT can immediately see where traffic and bandwidth usage occurs. By clicking onto the bandwidth or the link, you can drill down to the device level for the network node.
Figure 3 - Traffic weather map
Monitoring - The monitoring portion of the application allows organizations to oversee areas that may be less than efficient or how they are currently performing. These areas include WAN RTT monitoring, VoIP, Cisco, router and switch monitoring.
This portion of the application is directly linked to the network performance component as complexity is built from the ground up from individual devices to the WAN, then to the global network. Each monitoring condition can be analyzed to the device level by clicking onto the link or drilling down from the diagram which will provide the necessary user statistics.
VoIP Monitoring provides fault and performance monitoring capabilities to manage VoIP quality, capacity and data usage for the VoIP portion of the network. The technology used to monitor the VoIP portion of the application is based on Cisco IP SLA (Cisco IOS IP SLAs use active monitoring to generate traffic in a continuous, reliable, and predictable manner, thus enabling measurements of network performance and health). VoIP QoS metrics that can be measured include: packet loss, network latency (response time it takes for voice to reach from point to destination in milliseconds), jitter (the variation in the delay of received packets in milliseconds) and MOS - The Mean Opinion Score, a standard for measuring voice codecs, which is measured in the scale of 1 to 5 (poor quality to perfect quality). This level of detail provides IT the correct portion of the network that needs to be fixed without causing much business disruption. The importance of VoIP monitoring has become more important due to the organizational switch that companies have made to VoIP services using their internet/network connection. By having full knowledge of network performance IT can even use this data for future capacity planning as bandwidth issues and usage can be compensated for. The info provided can help create the guidelines of the new SLA and QoS agreements for internal and external vendors alike.
OpManager has over 700 templates for users for discovery and monitoring based on the SNMP protocol to quickly identify new devices on a given network. ARP cache, CDP and Bridge MIB information is used to determine how the devices are inter-connected to render the Layer 2 and Layer 3 mapping and selection of seed devices, all of which are available through its monitoring dashboard.
The router-monitoring component of the application offers monitoring of bandwidth application usage through each router. IT can either manually or automatically assign business rules to load balance each router. By smoothing out spikes can maximize speed across the network due to better efficiency. Some WAN monitoring challenges include optimizing bandwidth allocations, ensuring network availability, quickly resolving WAN problems, capacity planning for future requirements, minimizing recurring costs on WAN links (by quickly pinpointing unavailable links), identifying high traffic/ utilization sources, identifying and updating problematic legacy routers. Common router KPI statistics such as CPU utilization, memory utilization, errors and discards, temperature, CRC errors, collisions and buffer statistics can be monitored to ensure optimal operation. The application also allows an event log to track events and can assist in maintenance tasks by alerting whether a router needs to be serviced or replaced based the mean time between failure.
The switch monitoring functionality within OpManager automatically discovers switches within your network and creates a special switch map with locations. The software can alert you of switches that have failed and action can be taken immediately to mitigate risk, further damage or perhaps reroute traffic to ensure network usability. The depth of the monitoring can be detailed to offer visibility into spanning tree status showing which ports are blocked and which ones are forwarding. The Switch Port Mapper (SPM) and the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) tools are embedded in OpManager. It helps you to quickly find out the list of devices connected to the switch ports using the SPM protocols and the STP shows details so ports can be viewed to monitor the state of each port state and which ports are blocked and which ports are forwarding etc.
Network Change and Configuration Management - This section of the application monitors the constant changes of the network. Any configuration changes to switches, ports, firewalls, WAN/LAN changes can severely expose security, reliability and impact on QoS. The network configuration management console allows the user to create, authorize and automate policy-based changes, allows configuration and back-ups with single clicks (roll-back feature), detect changes in real-time, can incorporate previously created scripts into the automation processes of OpManager, reduce workloads from preexisting templates included within the application and create and automate workflows with proper escalation alerts. The ready availability of this information means reports can easily be generated on any aspect of network management.
IT Automation - This portion of the application demonstrates the depth and flexibility of the application. Usually, software of this nature is very limited in its ability to customize workflows and being able to specifically configure the software to match organizational needs. Certain manual tasks that would otherwise have required human intervention can be automated to ease troubleshooting issues. Tasks such as notifications, problem alerts, authorizations and repetitive tasks can be incorporated in succession into one workflow that automates several manual procedures into an automatic procedure which saves time and can prevent unnecessary service outages.
Workflow automation does not replace people but uses your company's resources more efficiently. Workflow automation in OpManager is used for both large and smaller organizations. For larger organizations workflow automation is used to automate multiple resources, whereas smaller enterprises use the additional functionality to simplify often distributed scripts or automation procedures using multiple tools.
A simple drag and drop workflow builder easily helps create workflows so that no coding is required. By creating structured IT processes using XML, organizations can enforce IT compliance across the board and mitigate risk of human error for repetitive tasks.
The figure below represents the minimum requirements to run OpManager.
Figure 5 - minimum requirements
The flexible architectural foundation and extensive protocol functions allows for many multi-vendor devices and databases to be supported through network discovery or by building the network map through CSV imports, This also extends to scripts to further facilitate a wide range of non-specific industry support.
Depending on customer sizes and network complexities, the average OpManager can be up and running in less than eight hours. OpManager does not currently offer third party data migration. The product does support CSV files for network discovery, which aids in the network discovery phase to instantly add existing network devices. OpManager has a proprietary tool to backup/restore the data or to facilitate upgrades. Customers can install OpManager and NetFlow plug-in on any Linux server viz. RedHat 7.x and above, Debian 3.0, Suse, Fedora, Mandrake. However NCM plug-in only supports Windows OS and doesn't support Linux, while installing OpManager on a Linux server will disable all WMI based monitors.
As a newcomer within the Network performance management (NPM) software landscape, OpManager has amassed over 10,000 customers rapidly. OpManager supports customers worldwide and has a presence in 100+ countries. The products from ManageEngine are sold directly and through a partner network. The NPM space was previously focused on large and medium size companies. ManageEngine has generated the ability for small organizations have this functionality, where pricing once made it unattainable.
OpManager is a comprehensive network management product that provides a holistic view of the organization, including fault and performance management, provides visibility into routers, switches, firewalls, WAN RTT links, VOIP links, wireless access points, multi-server platforms such as Windows, Unix, Linux, HPUX, IBM AIX and Solaris, virtual servers (VMware ESX & ESXi/ MS Hyper-V) and environments, load balancers, printers, temperature sensors and other IT components within the network.
OpManager is principally an administrative IT tool used for analysis, performance, data and network monitoring. Organizations will find it useful for capacity planning and as a tool with which to monitor spending and creation of KPU's to maximize IT efficiencies through best ITIL practices. The efficiencies of the network and proactive efforts can be preset to avoid failure or degradation problems that affect business. A prime example of this is organizations that have an E-commerce website and after a marketing campaign causes traffic spikes. Once configured, OpManager can be programmed to alert and balance the excess traffic load to other servers to distribute and handle the new influx of traffic.
The user-friendly approach that OpManager has created allows customers to customize and re-brand reports through the web GUI, set thresholds, configure alerts, create IT workflows and approval processes, highlight traffic patterns, script monitoring, and detect network gradation, among other aspects that organizations will find useful and provide quantifiable information to validate network and IT service and performance.
For a tool of this price point/range, a neat feature is the ability to create workflows with proper escalation and approval alerts. This is a rare component for a solution within this price bracket, as some high-end solutions do not do this well at all. The creation of workflows within the software allow for the automation of many tasks and operations. The dashboard from the main console (upon login) is the command center that allows access to all aspects of the application thereby enabling the user easy access to real-time information and to leverage IT intelligence for management purposes. This may be done through several report structures via an Excel file, PDF or CSV file. The automated workflow feature can create automated templates to monitor the status of any network component or service run within the network. This is a differentiator within this space as many applications do not provide the automation capabilities that a template can provide to ease troubleshooting and minimize business impact.
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