red light green light toolOnce at a trade show I was challenged by someone who used a low-priced SMB tool to monitor his network of about 50 devices. He insisted it could do everything Entuity could do, for example, it offered event management just like ours. Well…not quite.

Lots of vendors offer event management but dig deeper and you’ll likely find that they fall at one of four levels:

Rudimentary (or “Red Light/Green Light”) Tools: These simply list all of the devices in inventory and report whether a device (or port) is up or down. Ok (maybe) for 20 to 30 devices, but imagine searching through a list of 1,500 looking for the “red ones.” More significantly, low-end tools don’t offer root cause analysis (RCA), that is a coupling of device status to the topology to determine where a problem is centered. A key device being out may display dozens or scores of red lighted devices—they are now all unreachable. But which one is the root cause? That’s a job for a more advanced NMS.

Basic (Display and Notification of Raw Events): Slightly more advanced (but not much more useful) are tools that tell you when something happens on a device. A port goes down, the device stops responding to pings and so on. Again, an event on a network might trigger dozens or hundreds of these events, giving very little actionable insight. These “event storms” certainly raise alarms but don’t do much to help put out the fire. Many of these tools still have no integrated topology with the inventory and therefore wouldn’t know where to start looking.

Intermediate (Root Cause Analysis): More advanced network management systems leverage device reachability and status with an integrated knowledge of the topology to sort through the smoke and get to the fire. Downstream, sympathetic events listed in event storms are simply noise. The key is to getting to the root of the problem quickly. RCA allows IT to fix an issue within minutes, not hours.

Advanced (Event Management): More advanced network management systems (like Entuity) incorporate advanced event management, such as allowing the simple grouping of events, from deduplication (port flapping, for example) and N of M filters before notification, to the logical grouping of disparate events and the ability to reach advanced conclusions. They allow you to go from a collection of apparently unrelated events to an understood incident, which can then be addressed. Some of these event managers can be very complex, requiring the mastery of scripting tools or programming. Entuity’s event management, by contrast, offers a drag-and-drop interface—a modern mechanism.

My challenger’s NMS offered a rudimentary event manager with no root cause, which might work fine for now, but as the network grows may actually impede troubleshooting. For example, one of our customers whose network was expanding and who once used that same solution began to experience event storms so severe that, over several weekends, hundreds of emails were generated for network-related events, making it extremely hard to figure out which ones were real. This was a key reason they replaced the tool with Entuity.

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