Both OpenView and TME also provide a growing set of tools that live inside the framework. The tools can do such things as generate a map of network devices, monitor SNMP variables, report when a variable reaches or exceeds a threshold set by the administrator and help isolate network and performance bottlenecks.

Both platforms also provide agents that can be installed on workstations or network servers. These agents independently monitor the devices on which they are installed, only reporting items of particular note to the management console. This approach helps alleviate unnecessary network traffic that could occur if thousands of workstations were sending routine information to a central management console. In many cases, the agents can be configured to repair common problems.

Deciding whether the HP or IBM framework is best depends on a close examination of the existing network and the exact management requirements. Neither solution is inexpensive -- both in initial cost and in the expertise it takes to learn and use the system effectively. However, both are far cheaper than the astronomical costs associated with an unmanaged, unmonitored large network.

Timely Tools

The good news about that first network that went down is that the engineers located the problem pretty quickly -- after all, there were only two computers involved -- and the network came back up in short order. Not only did it come back up, but it came back up more solidly than before and stayed up longer.

In what seems like a couple of days later, we had the Internet and large agency intranets. Today, network equipment is far more stable and reliable than it used to be, but because networks are so much larger, it sometimes is harder to isolate the problem.

Fortunately, as networks have grown, so too have the options for managing those networks. For those buried under large, unmanaged networks, the appearance of such tools has come none too soon.

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David Aden is a senior consultant for webworld studios, an application-development consultancy in Northern Virginia. Email

David Aden  | 
David Aden DAden@webworldtech.com is a writer from Washington, D.C.