Network Management Tools

Network Management Tools

by James G. Barr

Docid: 00014631

Publication Date: 2301

Report Type: TUTORIAL


As organizations look to cut costs and boost efficiency, having the
appropriate tools for network management is becoming more important. These
tools provide administrators with the ability to automate essential but
often time-consuming operations. Many organizations have adopted unified
network management offerings as an alternative to a variety of individual
tools, and are increasingly looking toward open source solutions to
further cut costs. Meanwhile, network management vendors focus on the
development of tools to monitor evolving overlay network technology and
facilitate software-defined networking (SDN). This report looks at the
different components of network management systems and offers
recommendations for implementations.

Report Contents:

Executive Summary

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When network management tools first appeared on the market, most were
sold as niche packages that performed a narrow range of functions
such as print serving and problem diagnosis. System administrators,
however, encountered difficulties when trying to use more than one of
these independent tools. One problem involved data storage
facilities. Many independent utilities stored data in their own
separate databases; the resulting scattered data made it difficult to
compile comprehensive reports for usage analysis.

Another major problem with standalone tools was that most had unique user
interfaces. To access information stored by different utilities,
system administrators had to switch back and forth between screens. This
interface disparity meant that administrators spent more time learning how
to use the interfaces rather than managing network resources.

As a response to the growing need for managing disparate network
resources and peripherals, major vendors such as HP, Broadcom, and Oracle
have responded with end-to-end offerings that span network resources
including storage systems, databases, print servers, and Web sites. The
combination of separate, and often disparate, network management tools
into network management suites is not only aimed at improving
network management, but facilitating the integration of network management
with other information technology (IT) governance disciplines such as
problem management, change management, and configuration management.


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With the network management market projected to reach $14.6 billion by
2027, up from $9.3 billion in 2022,1 there are literally
dozens, if not hundreds, of management tools available to assist network
administrators with various network tasks. Among the functions that can be
carried out by today’s network management suites and standalone software
products are:

  • Network modeling
  • Network and traffic monitoring
  • Software distribution
  • Application metering
  • Network diagnostics
  • Virus checking
  • Help desk support
  • Print services
  • Inventory or asset management
  • Storage management
  • Database management
  • Security management
  • Cloud infrastructure monitoring

These capabilities are more important than ever before, especially with
enterprises relying more heavily on their networks – particularly
intranets and virtual private networks – to stay competitive. But large
networks that often support thousands of users worldwide present special
management challenges. Typically, these networks consist of a dizzying
array of transmission facilities, LAN technologies, protocols, and
standards, all cobbled together to meet the differing needs of workgroups,
departments, branch offices, divisions, subsidiaries, and, increasingly,
strategic partners, suppliers, and customers. As a result, vendors
continue to develop new and innovative management tools for end-to-end
network management.

Network Modeling

Designing LANs and WANs requires a multifaceted tool, preferably one that
is graphical, object-oriented, and interactive. It should support the
entire network lifecycle, starting with the definition of end-user
requirements and conceptual design to the very detailed vendor-specific
configuration of network devices, the protocols they use, and the various
links between them. 

At each phase in the design process, the tool should be able to test
different design alternatives in terms of cost, performance, and
validity. When the design checks out, the tool should generate
network diagrams and a bill of materials. Ideally, the network
documentation should be Web-enabled, allowing others to review it and add
notations until a consensus is reached concerning the optimal design.

Network and Traffic Monitoring

Network and traffic monitoring tools identify usage trends, track overall
network throughput, and monitor the performance of various systems
including disk and cache performance. When a problem occurs – such as a
disconnected or broken cable, a hung server application, or a failing disk
drive – the system-monitoring tool uses alarms to alert the administrator.

Some traffic monitoring products feature an event manager agent to track
and log network activity (events) and automatically alert the person
responsible for responding to certain network occurrences. The following
network occurrences are considered reportable events:

  • Running jobs, such as a network backup or a virus scan
  • Recording the status of completed jobs
  • Recording changes to the hardware inventory
  • Logging in and out of the network
  • Unsuccessful log in attempts
  • Accessing applications
  • Starting programs (successfully or unsuccessfully)

The LAN administrator can specify the network activity to be tracked,
such as the times when users log in and out of the network or when certain
programs are run. Network activities that may require immediate
attention can also be specified, such as repeated log in attempts which
may indicate hacker activity. A notification feature can be set up to
alert the LAN administrator of the times when these events occur so that
appropriate action can be taken.

Software Distribution

The complexity of managing the distribution and implementation of
software at the desktop requires that LAN administrators make use of
automated software distribution tools. One of these tools is a
distribution agent. It is used to automate the process of distributing
software – for initial installation or upgrade – to particular groups or

The agent can be set up to collect file distribution status information
for the appropriate software. The LAN administrator can view this
information at the console to determine if software files and patches were
distributed successfully. The console provides view formats and types
that allow the administrator to review status data such as which
workstations are set up for file distributions, the stations to which
files have been distributed, and the number of stations waiting for

Via scripts, the LAN administrator can define distribution criteria
including the group or station to receive files and the day or days on
which files are to be distributed. Scripts usually identify the files for
distribution and the hardware requirements needed to run the file
distribution job successfully. Many vendors provide templates to ease
script creation. These templates can be displayed as a preset list of
common file tasks, which the administrator can change without having to
write a new script.

To help administrators prepare for a major software distribution, some
products offer routines called “wizards” that walk administrators through
the steps required to assemble a “package.” A package is a complete set of
scripts, files, and recipients necessary to successfully complete a
distribution. Workstation distributions can be scheduled to occur at
boot-time, at network log in, or at network log out.

Application Metering

One of the key tasks for the system administrator is to keep track of the
enterprise’s software usage. An application agent is typically used to
meter software usage, including the individual applications in a software
suite. The agent collects information on which applications have been used
and identifies the users who have accessed them. The LAN administrator can
choose to be notified of the times when users are denied access to
applications because all available copies are in use.

The application agent meters use of the main executable application file
as well as all associated executable files. For example, metering use
of a graphics program can also track use of associated executable files
including those for a slideshow and batch print utility, both of which
might come with the graphics product.

There are at least four application metering modes:

  • Metering-off mode disables metering for all applications.
  • Audit-only mode does not restrict users from accessing a licensed
    application, but it keeps a log of all software usage.
  • Non-secure mode allows applications to run without being metered.
  • Secure mode requires that every application be metered before access
    is granted to the program.

The LAN administrator can tag applications or suites for metering and can
set several properties such as maximum concurrent users, rules for license
borrowing between servers, and the amount of time a user waits in a queue.
The LAN administrator can also select from several authentication methods
that can be tied to the application-metering tool including SQL and LDAP
database and directory metering.

Network Diagnostics

Many vendors offer a suite of network performance management and
diagnostic tools that allow administrators to monitor, measure, test, and
diagnose performance anywhere on the entire network, using a simple Web
browser interface. In addition, diagnostic tools can be used for traffic
emulation, application simulation, and network monitoring to measure the
impact of new network applications and application changes. Such tools can
even predict the need to add LAN or WAN capacity to maintain desired
response time and bandwidth utilization, and point out where bottlenecks
are most likely to occur in the future.

Additionally, many of the capabilities of standalone cable testers and
protocol analyzers are now available as software for use by LAN
administrators from a management station. Some can even be accessed over
the Web from a Java-enabled browser. Included in these diagnostic tools
are the following capabilities:

  • Prediction of bottlenecks before they cause failures
  • Measurement of LAN/WAN response time
  • Measurement of LAN/WAN uptime
  • Measurement of LAN segment bandwidth utilization
  • Tracing of traffic paths throughout the network
  • Modeling the impact of new applications, as well as moves, adds, and

Virus Checking

Virus-checking tools perform routine network scans and alert
administrators to the presence of viruses. Some virus-checking products
also clean, delete, and rename infected files, and allow system
administrators to update lists of current viruses from an on-line source
provided by the vendor. Virus-checking tools are available from such
well-known sources as Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and McAfee.

Products from these and other vendors provide high levels of flexibility,
allowing LAN administrators to specify how viruses will be detected and
what drives and files to scan. Scheduling capabilities enable the LAN
administrator to set up scans to run automatically when the console is not
being used. This prevents critical system resources from being tied up
while a scan is in progress. An activity log keeps track of the results of
all scans performed.

Some anti-virus products are server based, meaning that virus protection
can be extended to every workstation. Depending on the product, virus
definitions can be automatically synchronized throughout the enterprise so
that all servers have the most up-to-date virus information. If a new
virus is detected in one server, the virus profile is relayed to the other
servers, safeguarding the entire LAN. This information can also be passed
to remote servers via TCP/IP connections, extending virus protection
enterprise-wide through intranets and extranets. 

Help Desk Support

In large enterprise networks, system administrators establish a
centralized location, a help desk, where users can get assistance with
their hardware and software problems. There are various tools and
software application packages that provide help desk services.

The services available at help desks are numerous; the help desk’s first
function is to log, organize, prioritize, and dispatch support services.
In addition, help desks:

  • Initiate diagnostic utilities to troubleshoot network problems.
  • Provide assistance to users initiating workstation-level diagnostics.
  • Provide network inventory control of hardware and software.
  • Manage all local and remote network resources, including printers, fax
    machines, data repositories, and unattended file and data base servers.

Some help desk tools include knowledge-based expert applications such as
simulation analyzers, artificial intelligence diagnostic tools, and
network analyzers. They also offer tools for creating and maintaining
databases used for tracking all elements of the network. All help desk
activities are tracked for subsequent analysis and, in some cases, billing
purposes. A service history is maintained for each network element so
recurring problems can be isolated and halted.

Print Services

The printer is the most commonly shared device on a network. Print server
tools facilitate a large number of users by analyzing printer traffic and
resource utilization. This includes setting up multiple printers and, if
necessary, multiple print servers. To optimize resources, print server
tools analyze network, printer, and server speeds, all of which impact
print spooling and de-spooling.

Before users can select a print destination, the administrator must enter
information about each network printer into the printer catalog. The
printer catalog identifies all of the printers attached to the network,
including specific information about each printer such as server name,
queue name, and print driver. Printer information is then saved in a
console database. Maintaining a printer catalog at the console also
allows the LAN administrator to restrict printer use based on such
criteria as login ID and workstation ID. The printer catalog also is
the maintenance tool for updating printer settings whenever they
change. Once the catalog is established, the administrator has a
single source for printer information. An icon can be assigned to each
printer, facilitating printer selection among users.

Through the print manager catalog, the LAN administrator can exercise
full control over printer use. For example, a printer might be used solely
for printing accounting forms, and the paper tray is stocked with forms
numbered sequentially. Submitting a print request for a document other
than this form would disrupt the numbering system.

The LAN administrator can also manage printers to facilitate document
distribution. For each report, a recipient profile can be created that
describes how it will be handled. The printer management tools track
report delivery and maintain an audit trail of all reports.

Inventory or Asset Management

Effective inventory or asset management is essential for controlling
costs and ensuring that users have access to necessary resources. The
process of tracking hardware-related information can be expedited through
the use of hardware agents that automate the process of creating and
maintaining an inventory of equipment installed at the servers and
workstations connected on the network, instead of visiting each machine to
perform a physical inventory. This information is useful to technicians
when troubleshooting problems, as well as for determining spare parts

Once inventory data is collected, it can be viewed and updated through
the systems management console. Specifically, the LAN administrator can:

  • Add and delete server, workstation, and thin-client configurations.
  • Add, edit, and delete related information, such as where in the
    organization the unit is located and to whom it is assigned.
  • View the workstation profiles as recorded in the system registry,
    autoexec.bat, and config.sys files, environment data, and interrupt
    request (IRQ) settings.
  • Enter notes about a workstation or component, such as when the
    component was ordered and is due to arrive or the user or group to whom
    a recommended configuration pertains.
  • Track additional parts.
  • Log recommended station configurations.

A new inventory can be taken each time users turn on their computer or
start a network session, including remote mobile computers when they
connect to the remote access server. This ensures that the hardware
inventory is always current. When the inventory is displayed at the
administration console, the time and date of the last inventory is also
displayed. Administrators can receive alerts of changed
configurations that may not be authorized.

There are a vast array of inventory management software products
available today, ranging from mobile computer inventory management to
retail systems to NASA inventory management. At the heart of these
products is the inventory management module (IMM), or a software function
that maintains precise information relating to controlling and planning
inventory levels.

Storage Management

Storage management tools help administrators move data to alternate media
and facilitate data backup, recovery, and archiving. These tools also
provide utilities for “defragging” random-access devices, recovering
corrupted files, and analyzing file usage (i.e., storage management tools
notify users of unused, duplicate, or obsolete files).

Most storage management tools track file residency, providing for the
seamless movement of files from backup to archive and back to the system
when needed. Through the common file catalog, the archive facility
can locate and initiate a restore of an archived file without the
involvement of the LAN administrator. Any user request, process, or
program attempting to access an archived file is suspended until the file
is restored and then allowed to continue without failure.

Storage management technologies have been refined to focus on three key

  • Volume Virtualization – This area involves managing
    virtual volumes from physical drives (and logical array partitions) and
    sharing them among multiple, heterogeneous operating systems.
  • Data Sharing – This area involves a variety of
    techniques for file sharing among diverse operating systems, such as
    network file systems and emulators or universal file systems.
  • Backup/Restore – This area involves preserving
    network data in the event of loss or compromise.

Database Management

Another critical area that requires advanced management tools is
corporate databases, especially those that support e-commerce, online
transaction processing (OLTP), and Decision Support Systems (DSS). The
major DBMS suppliers – including IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP – all
provide management tools that optimize the performance of large databases
accessed over the WAN as well as LANs. In addition, there are
third-party suppliers that offer monitoring tools that can be used in
conjunction with the servers that support these kinds of back-end

Security Management

With today’s LAN administration tools, security goes far beyond mere
password protection to include implementation of a policy-based approach
characteristic of most mainframe systems. Under the policy-based
approach to security, files are protected by their description in a
relational database. This means that newly created files are automatically
protected, not at the discretion of each creator, but consistent with the
defined security needs of the organization.

The LAN administrator usually has access to a full suite of password
controls and tracking features, and can specify an enforcement action to
be taken when a user’s login ID exceeds the system limit for violations,
such as:

  • Cancel – The access attempt is denied and the process
    that attempted the unauthorized access is canceled.
  • Logout – The access attempt is denied and the process
    group and all processes associated with it are canceled. If a logged-in
    user is associated with the attempt, that user also will be logged out
    as well.
  • Suspend – The access attempt is denied and the
    process group and all associated processes are canceled. In addition,
    the login ID is suspended and the user locked out of the system until
    authorized by the administrator.

Through the console, the LAN manager can review real-time and historical
violation activity online, along with other system activity.

Cloud Infrastructure Monitoring

Cloud infrastructure monitoring is closely aligned with conventional
network management. As analyst Andrew Froehlich observes, “[in] many
cases, private and public cloud instances can use the same types of
network monitoring tools implemented on corporate networks.” He warns,
however, that “many cloud service providers offer their own suite of
built-in network monitoring tools. While these cloud monitoring tools are
often free to customers, they typically can’t integrate into other
third-party tools organizations already use.”2

Current View

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The Market

As projected by MarketsandMarkets, the network management systems market,
valued at $9.3 billion in 2022, is expected to reach $14.6 billion by
2027, exhibiting a healthy compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.4
percent during the 2022-2027 forecast period.

The market is being driven by two primary factors:

  1. The growing popularity of software-defined networking (SDN), which
    greatly facilitates the centralized management of network resources.
  2. The demand among small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) for less
    expensive and more reliable network management options.

As always, a constraining factor, especially for SMEs, is the cost of
implementing new software, including training and overcoming any
interoperability issues.

Prominent providers in the network management space include:

  • Cisco
  • Broadcom
  • HP Enterprise
  • Oracle
  • Juniper Networks
  • Extreme Networks
  • SolarWinds
  • BMC3

Hybrid Working

In a pandemic-related business bounce, analyst Chiradeep BasuMallick
reveals that “[a] 2021 survey by Enterprise Management Associates found
that companies are increasing their network management and monitoring
investments to keep up with a hybrid working world. 52.6 percent need new
dashboards and reporting capabilities, while 32 percent look to improve
insight correlations.”4

General Direction

As networks evolve, management and administration support tools become
more complex. Businesses continue to move toward seamless integration
of multiple tools that provide transparent support of heterogeneous
enterprise networks, regardless of differences in platforms or network
operating systems. The current trend is to adopt comprehensive technology
from a large vendor rather than implement technology from a variety of
vendors. In doing so, businesses are often able to reduce costs while
implementing a less complex solution. 

For businesses choosing to use a variety of tools, interoperability
remains a challenge. Ideally, administrators should be able to launch
every tool they need from a single computer screen, the GUIs of which
should have a similar look and feel to facilitate their use. Enterprises
looking to reduce expenditures and improve interoperability are
increasingly adopting open source tools.

One of the ways enterprise system administrators can overcome
interoperability hurdles when purchasing third-party add-on products is to
make sure the products have passed the platform vendor’s certification
process. Since the platform vendor’s certification program does not,
however, include comprehensive testing of the application itself, but only
the parts of the application that integrate with the platform,
certification should not be the sole selection criterion.


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IT Service Management

The term “network management” refers to the policies, procedures, and
tools involved in operating, administering, maintaining, and provisioning
enterprise networks and networked systems.

Increasingly, network management – like problem management, change
management, configuration management, and other information technology
(IT) disciplines – is being viewed through the greater prism of IT
, an IT governance strategy that
seeks to standardize the design, delivery, and continual improvement of IT

For network management professionals, this emphasis on IT service
management means adopting both state-of-the-art network management tools and
IT service management best practices, normally either the Information
Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) or the Control Objectives for
Information and related Technology (COBIT).

Network Management Agents

According to analyst Andrew Froehlich, many enterprises are deploying
hardware and software agents that monitor network performance in work from
home (WFH) environments and micro-branch offices, helping remote workers
experience the same network response as their headquarters-based

Network Automation Tools

Whether for networking or other IT or general business function,
enterprise management is embracing automation, which promises to:

  • Reduce costs, particularly personnel expenses
  • Decrease operational errors
  • Increase operational responsiveness
  • Improve productivity and profitability
  • Enhance customer satisfaction

Gartner is bullish on automation in the network arena. “Network
automation tools help to automate provisioning/configuration,
troubleshooting, operations/maintenance, validation and reporting of
network components. The tools allow for increased agility and efficiency
while lowering costs, reducing the amount of manual human errors, and
improving compliance with required rules, regulations and laws. Network
automation tools allow organizations to make network changes across
hundreds, thousands, or more devices in short periods of time.”6

AI and ML

In another crucial development, analyst Froehlich cites the present and
future impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) on
network monitoring tools, which are already “[helping] eliminate many
manual processes and speed up the identification and remediation of
network-related issues. Whether performance or security-related, AI is
proving to be invaluable in discovering issues, identifying root causes,
and, in some cases, automating the remediation of network incidents.”7

Software-Defined Networking

Software-defined networking (SDN) is becoming increasingly popular. As
described by Microsoft, SDN “provides a method to centrally configure and
manage physical and virtual network devices such as routers, switches, and
gateways.” SDN is, thus, a network management mechanism and a network
management tool. Moving forward, SDN must be considered in both contexts.8


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Given the number, variety, and complexity of network management tools,
enterprise IT and Security officials should consider outsourcing network
management functions to a managed network services provider.

A managed network services provider (MNSP) is a third-party firm that
specializes in:

  • Managing network assets
  • Assuring network security
  • Reducing network complexity

For an enterprise – especially a SME – dealing with network management
issues while focusing on core business functions can be overwhelming.
Enlisting the aid of a managed network services provider can:

  • Help People – Because MNSPs maintain and manage
    network services, enterprises do not have to employ a large IT
    department, nor recruit and retain expensive IT personnel. 
  • Improve Finances – MNSPs generally provide customers
    with network management services at a cost lower than doing it

Network Management

With 24x7x365 monitoring, alerts, and support, MNSPs can offer fault
detection and isolation of key network events through the management of
polls and traps from both devices and transport elements. In addition to
providing expertise on network events, MNSPs can also offer regular
performance analysis and strategic planning. In general, MNSPs can offer
management services for the entire network lifecycle, including consulting
and design, testing, implementation and/or procurement, upgrades or
integration, maintenance, and training. Very importantly, MNSPs can help
in multi-vendor environments.

Network Security

It is critical that enterprises keep their networks secure, but it can be
a daunting task for IT departments to proactively protect their network
from viruses and hackers – and do their daily work as well. Similarly, it
can be difficult to keep up with certifications and retain seasoned
security professionals. MNSPs can provide firewall solutions, intrusion
detection/prevention, filtering, and equipment maintenance. Furthermore,
businesses with remote offices or a large number of employees who need to
access enterprise networks from various locations and devices can contract
with MNSPs for fully managed, secure VPN services.


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About the Author

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James G. Barr is a leading business continuity analyst
and business writer with more than 40 years’ IT experience. A member of
“Who’s Who in Finance and Industry,” Mr. Barr has designed, developed, and
deployed business continuity plans for a number of Fortune 500 firms. He
is the author of several books, including How to Succeed in Business
BY Really Trying
, a member of Faulkner’s Advisory Panel, and a
senior editor for Faulkner’s Security Management Practices.
Mr. Barr can be reached via e-mail at

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