We often hear this question: “do you have the necessary visibility and control that you need to manage your network?“. The answer is often a pretty shy “no..”.
In the past 15 years, we observed the evolution of computer networks from centralized servers to distributed cloud infrastructures. The complexity exponentially increased, making it difficult (we could say nearly impossible) to monitor the network with traditional tools such as ping, traceroute and MTR.
When we get notified about a problem, we often wonder:
- Is the problem in the network, or perhaps in the application?
- Is the issue local in my network, or maybe in the transit path through the Internet?
- What if the real culprit was the cloud service, could it be slow right now?
From the user initiating a connection to the final server actually serving it, nowadays there are many segments and servers involved, to the point that visibility becomes the key: in the end, you can only fix what you can see and pinpoint as an issue!
There are different but correlated aspects involved in effectively monitoring modern networks:
- Network monitoring (OSI Layer-3).
- Application/Server monitoring (OSI Layer-7).
- Gets alerts in case of a fault at any level.
Today we are going to review OpManager version 12, an integrated network monitoring and management solution created by ManageEngine.
OpManager is an integrated network management software. It offers plenty of features and views to network administrator, such as:
- Network and server monitoring.
- Bandwidth analysis.
- Firewall management.
- Configuration management.
- IP address management
- Switch ports management.
- Fault management.
OpManager can be used to monitoring servers, routers, switches, firewalls, printers, critical services and applications from a single console. The information is graphically displayed in a dashboard accessible from any web browser.
Let’s now have a look at how OpManager works !
How it works
OpManager is designed to provide visibility and control on your network.
The fault and performance management tools help to solve the most common problems in modern networks. The event manager helps you in quickly pinpoint what is wrong in your network.
ICMP and SNMP polling are supported, and OpManager can be configured to receive SNMP Traps and syslog messages from the monitored devices – without the need for any extra agent.
The alerting system can trigger SMS notifications, or automatically log a ticket into ServiceDesk.
In the past couple of years, we saw many applications moving into someone else server, commonly called “cloud”. The side effect is that Network Engineers are now also responsible for ensuring that access to those cloud applications is smooth and troubleless, so making sure the network is up and running it’s not enough any longer.
OpManagers helps the Network Engineers in monitoring applications, including: Windows Servers, Exchange Servers, Active Directory, SQL Servers and several more.
Another powerful OpManager feature is the WAN RTT troubleshooter. Leveraging Cisco IP SLA technology, the tool measures the latency and RTT, identifying slow devices along the path to reach the destination.
OpManager allows real-time monitoring of traffic passing through your WAN links. It is possible to check which applications are generating most of the traffic in order to protect and optimize your network. In addition, OpManager can leverage Cisco NBAR to accurately identify the application traffic.
A common cause of network outages is device misconfiguration (yep, that includes human errors). The complexity of this operation is often pretty significant, and so is the time to fix the problem. OpManager ease this scenario performing regular backups of network device configurations, also enforcing best practices in managing the devices.
VoIP can be actively monitored by OpManager using Cisco IP SLA, continuously measuring critical quality of service parameters and call services. VoIP performance metrics are provided in terms of packet loss, latency, jitter, Mean Opinion Score (MOS) and Round Trip Time (RTT).
With so many applications moving to data centers, the role of the Network Engineer has never been more challenging. OpManager provides a one-stop-shop console with extended visibility and control of virtual and physical servers.
OpManager can monitor and measure servers performance leveraging more than 300 metrics such as CPU load, memory utilization, disk space availability plus server availability and response time. Alerting is available to be promptly notified about problems, also integrating with existing helpdesk ticketing systems.
OpManager is also able to monitor applications in terms of performance, health and security. Event logs can be parsed and analyzed, checking for multiple login failures, account lockout and failed attempts to access secure files.
VMware ESX servers can be monitored as well, providing detailed information on each ESX server: CPU, memory and disk utilization for the guest Virtual Machines instances. OpManager also provides controls to start/stop/suspend the Virtual Machines, as well as alerting if the configured resource thresholds are reached.
Exchange servers are another critical service in any medium/large organization. OpManager monitors those servers going beyond the usual SMTP, POP and IMAP protocols. Microsoft Information Store, MTA Stacks, Routing Engine and System Attendand are all services that OpManager can actively monitor.
SQL Database health and performance can be monitored as well, in order to know if resource problems exist and if the server is just running slow due too many queries or connections. OpManager provides a dashboard where CPU, memory, disk usage and details on databases can be kept under control.
Active Directory monitoring is part of the package, as well as SLA can be checked and alerts configured based on that.
Using 100+ out of the box network performance reports on server availability, fault events, resource utilization, OpManager provides information on how the IT capacity should be expanded or optimized.
Network traffic analysis
OpManager allows network traffic analysis through its NetFlow module. Traffic patterns and bandwidth utilization can be monitored via Cisco NetFlow, sFlow, IPFIX. Real-time measurements are provided along with traffic reports highlighting bandwidth issues.
Additional capabilities include IP SLA monitoring, AVC support, QoS reporting, WLC reporting and billing reports.
Network Configuration management
Configuring network devices has always been a critical task. Mistakes in the configuration could translate in serious network outages, so the task can’t be taken lightly. OpManager Network Configuration Manager helps the automation of policy-based changes, configuration, and compliance of your devices. OpManager supports over 30 different vendors.
OpManager allows to schedule or initiate configuration backups on demands. Those are stored encrypted with versioning information in the system database. It is possible to compare versions and restore previous configurations as needed.
Configuration changes can be detected in real-time, and email alerts promptly fired to alert in case of need. The email alerts come with configuration diff’s, enabling you to decide which version should be used. Auditing is available, allowing to see who did the changes int the configuration and when it was done.
Something important that can be achieved using OpManager is stopping unauthorized configuration changes impacting critical devices. Approval workflows can be enabled so a senior network engineer can be in charge of approving or rejecting the proposed changes, before they are pushed to the production devices.
Other operations that can be accomplished with OpManager are: automation of repetitive tasks (e.g. port blocking, applying security patches, etc.), security policy enforcement and device compliance reports.
IP address manager and switch port management
When the number of devices scales up, managing the interfaces and IP address space can become challenging. In addition, keeping track of links and ports can be daunting at times. Spreadsheets are an outdated solution, so OpManager offers the IP Address Manager module and the Switch port Mapper to ease these problems.
For every IP address recorded in the system, OpManager IP Address Manager provides DNS name, MAC address, system name, device type, switch to which is connected to and much more. Administrators can also add custom fields to make the database even clearer to read. The IP address each is done leveraging several protocols including ICMP, SNMP, DNS and WMI.
It is possible to integrate with Active Directory, so to look up each IP address to determine if the device belongs to a computer object. If so, the Address Manager fetches some more useful info from the Active Directory, such as creation time, GUID, OS names, etc.
Any change in the address space can be tracked and alerts configured for immediate notification. It is also possible creating reports for the addressing space, on demand or periodically created and emailed to the relevant users.
The Switch Port Mapper maps the devices plugged into the switch ports, obtaining visibility into IP and MAC addresses connected to each switch, as well as VLAN information and port status.
Similarly to the IP tool, the port mapper keeps track of device connections on the switch. Devices can be searched based on IP address, MAC address, domain name or location. It is possible to create groups of switches for easier selection.
An interesting feature is the switch port control using SNMP. This allows the user to block/unblock switch ports directly from OpManager.
Fault and performance management
Network outages can suddenly occur at any time, and having a real-time fault management can greatly improve the recovery time. OpManager offers 24/7 network surveillance, with immediate alerting via email and SMS in case of problems. Alerts can be also viewed through an Android/iOS app on your smartphone.
OpManager allows the integration with ServiceDesk to automate the creation of network support tickets.
Data center management
OpManager provides a pretty uncommon feature to manage your data center. A visual modeling tool is provided to help you creating the data center floor and rack maps with information on the servers loaded into it.
The data center replica can be used to virtually navigate the maps and know exactly where to go to find what you need… a pretty cool feature, I’d say!
I remember few years ago walking around a data center looking for Nortel Alteon load balancers, as the customer had no clue about their physical location…
OpManager provided a fully functional demo to test the product. Let’s have few a few first-hands examples on field testing.
OpManager can be installed on either Windows or Linux platforms. The system requirements depend on the amount of devices and interfaces that need to be monitored, but overall the application is not too greedy in terms of hardware resources.
The install packages are standard Windows and Linux respectively, and the procedure to use is well explained in the installation guide. We deployed the product on a Windows Server 2012 R2 standard with no problem whatsoever.
The device discovery is carried out using different protocols: SNMP, WMI, Telnet, SSH and VMware connections. The credentials are provided to OpManager, and the discovery mechanisms can then start,
Documentation and support
A great software product should have a great documentation coming along. OpManager offers plenty of guides and use cases in its Support Page, but unfortunately, the overall documentation organization is not the best. We struggled a bit in navigating the abundant information available.
OpManager offers a user interface that is easy and straightforward to use, so luckily it’s not very frequent the need of using the support documentation. Nevertheless, it should be organized better for easier access when needed.
The dashboard is the point of entrance of OpManager. It is completely customizable and offers plenty of opportunities to see the data of interest. We really liked the Heatmap, which in a glimpse provides a view on all monitored devices, flagging in yellow and red the one having problems.
Another interesting feature is that each widget used in the dashboard can be expanded to allow a better view of the data embedded in it. In addition, each widget can be customized to reflect the best possible way of presenting data for the specific user.
The server view presents plenty of information on the monitored servers. CPU, memory utilization, load are all metrics available in this page. Again, the real strength here is the simplicity and the abundance of information.
Network Configuration Manager
The Network Configuration Manager is a handy tool to keep track of configuration changes on the monitored devices. We liked the summary view of devices with changes, available backups, configuration conflicts and more (see below screenshot). The ability to automate repetitive operations and to push configuration changes is a powerful feature when managing large networks.
IP Address manager
Again talking about large networks management, the IP Address Manager is an awesome tool for address and interface tracking that makes any Excel spreadsheet looks obsolete. The assigned interfaces and address space is always under control, making sure there’s no waste of IP Addresses.
The inventory is a summary view of all the monitored devices, interfaces, networks and applications. When monitoring different aspects of our OSI layer-3 and layer-7 stack, it is very handy having compact views correlating all the information on our devices.
Any network monitoring tool needs an efficient alarm section. OpManager provides the Alarms view where to create and check active alarms and associated metrics. Critical alarms can be easily accessed for quick view, as well as historical information.
The map view allows creating different types of maps: business views, data center floors and rack mapping. This is useful for large network deployment spanning different locations, or to keep track of devices in a data center.
OpManager comes with Android app as well as iOS app for iPhone and iPad. This is a handy way to keep the monitoring in your pocket when you are on the move. Those native apps ensure full access to OpManager, so they are not just limited to alarming in case of issues.
OpManager offers REST API access for integration with other applications. The authentication is done using a standard API key that needs to be generated and it is unique for each OpManager account.
The list of available API endpoint is pretty large, so we tried a few GET and POST requests immediately obtaining the expected data. Absolutely no worries from the API point of view.
OpManager is the Swiss knife of the network and system monitoring. In one tool, it provides plenty of information spanned across different layers such as data-link (layer-2), network (layer-3) and application (layer-7).
The web user interface has several views. What we really like was the possibility to customize those, without being tied to fixed schemes.
Whan we did not like was the organization of the information that can definitely be improved providing better and clearer menus to access the different views.
OpManager leverages standard network protocols to perform network discovery and data collection, hence it does not need to install any probing agent like other monitoring applications do.
OpManager comes at a very interesting price if compared to other network monitoring tools, and if you read up to here we definitely recommend you to check the pricing page where you can also get a 30-days Free Trial!