It’s sometimes difficult to differentiate between hype and reality when it comes to topics such as cloud, ITaaS, SDN, DevOps, hybrid this and hybrid that. But there are a few certainties in the IT universe and one of them is that IT doesn’t function if all of the pieces can’t talk to one another, and that means the network needs to be rock solid. Some of that is under the control of enterprise IT teams as internal network infrastructure, but some of it isn’t, such as WAN or Internet. Because connectivity is so essential, no one questions the need for making sure the network is healthy and operational at all times, and that its role is assured in the grand scheme of IT.

This is where Enterprise Network Availability Monitoring Systems (ENAMS) come into play. ENAMS are software products that are used by network operators and managers to keep a constant watch over their networks.  For those that still have a Network Operations Center (NOC), this would be the platform that would be used by operators for live monitoring.  EMA has been following these technologies for its entire history, and recently published an updated landscape report on major ENAMS solutions. In that report, 17 products from 16 vendors were reviewed against a set of functional and ownership/operational cost metrics that EMA has developed based on market research and practitioner dialogue.  Among the products reviewed are stalwarts of the NOC such as HP NNMi (nee OpenView), CA Spectrum, and Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold, as well as many others.

Some of the key features and functionality emphasized within the study include:

–       Discovery: In order to manage a network, you have to understand what comprises that network and how those elements are connected and dependent upon one another.  This can be done manually, but automated discovery can make it much easier to keep up with change.

–       Alarm management: The most basic output of an ENAMS system is the running list of alerts and alarms either sent by network devices or interpreted and raised by the ENAMS itself.  These form the basis of investigations and work tasks by NOC personnel.

–       Fault isolation and troubleshooting: When a problem does arise, these features help in diagnosing and determining root causes.  Some such features are automated, and others are ideally organized to facilitate rapid diagnosis.

The most recent edition of the study reflects a vibrant and dynamic range of available choices for those seeking effective, scalable, enterprise-class network monitoring solutions. As with most EMA Radar Reports, the solutions tend to fall along a continuum, from those at one end that are designed for ultra large, complex managed environments and with loads of bells and whistles (but also a high cost of acquisition and ownership) to those that are designed for cost-effectively meeting the needs for small to medium-sized networks. This is a longstanding and mature sector, so feature completeness is high across the board compared to other areas of management technology.  Even the lesser known ENAMS challengers are coming to the table with significant capabilities, and this is good news, because it keeps all of the vendors moving forward and keeping pace with new technologies to be managed and new techniques for continuous improvement in efficiency and effectiveness.