There are a lot of network management systems out there but not a lot of them make network management easy for the network manager. I have worked with PacketTrap since the days of their free pt360 network troubleshooting tools and I have always seen their goal of making network management “easy” evident in their network management products. Since that introduction of their free tool, PacketTrap has come a long way and now offers a comprehensive network monitoring and management system called Perspective. I asked them why they chose the name “Perspective” for their new product and they said that it is because the product shows you the status of your network and devices from the “perspective” of that network device and from the perspective that the network manager needs to see it from. Recently, I attended a webinar on Perspective and demoed the product for myself. Let me tell you more about it and how I feel that it can help you.
By the way, if you want to skip reading this article and get a free evaluation of Perspective right now, just go to the Perspective Download Site and you’ll be using it for yourself in few minutes.
What can PacketTrap Perspective do for me?
While I said that Perspective was PacketTrap’s “new product”, I should be more specific and point out that it is their most recent product but it has already made large inroads into companies like Harley Davidson, Oracle, American Red Cross, Cisco, and Boeing to name a few on the high-end. True to their mission of keeping things simple, the company’s products are also very viable for organizations with 100 end points and up. Thus, I don’t want you to think of Perspective as an untried or beta level NMS – its “production ready” at even the largest companies.
As a network admin I know that whenever a company came and pitched a new product to me, my first question was always “what can it do for me or why do I care?”. Perspective offers the following:
- Traffic Analysis: Supports NetFlow, JFlow and sFlow® to tell you who and what is clogging your bandwidth.
- Real Time Performance Monitoring: Monitors performance counters for routers, hubs, switches, servers, and applications in real-time.
- Virtualization Support: Monitor the health of your VMware® ESX servers and monitor the health of guest Virtual Machines running on those ESX servers.
- Multi-User / Multi-Site: Allow unlimited users in IT department to connect to Perspective via a thin client or browser across multiple sites.
- Advanced Alerting: Provides advanced email and SMS alerts for devices, including servers, switches, hubs, routers, and other network infrastructure gear.
- Panoramic View: Provides a 360 degree view of your network for local and remote locations.
And more specifically, it offers features like these:
- Alerts and Notifications
- Application Monitoring
- Automated Remediation
- Load-and-Go Deploy
- Log File Management
- Monitoring Dashboards
- Go Live Monitoring
- Network Traffic Flow
- Performance Baseline
- pt360 Tool Integration
- Remote Office Support
- Role-Based Access
- Router Config Backup
- Smart Policies
- Virtualization Support
- Wireless Monitoring
I know that likely fulfilled your need to view the “specs” but let me tell you more from my first hand “perspective” of Perspective…
In my opinion, Perspective is great because it makes doing these things easy. For example, let’s say that I want to configure an Alert. Perspective will guide me through that with Wizards and show me that I am on “Step 2 of 3” of the process of adding an alert, for example. Perspective asks me questions in simple English and offers context-related help along the way. Another example is how Perspective has thought of common tasks that Cisco network admins should perform and it has created automated tools to perform them for you. For example, Perspective can automatically backup all of your Cisco routers on a schedule. It can also automatically configure Netflow on a Cisco router and give you in-depth network information in just a few clicks. I like software that makes more common advanced tasks “easier”.
One of my favorite new features is the support for VMware virtualization monitoring. I will talk more about that later. For now, let me show you what Perspective looks like.
What does Perspective look like?
Now, let’s take a look at Perspective. Like other PacketTrap tools, Perspective has a visually appealing interface that is clean and easy to use. Here are some screenshots:
Perspective offers real-time network monitoring using NetFlow and SFlow.
Alerting via email or SMS can easily be configured for a wide variety of network or server issues:
You can monitor specific applications like SQL and Exchange, all built into Perspective:
You can easily create custom dashboards:
Some other features that I didn’t capture graphics for are:
- Automatic Remediation – Perspective will automatically take an action when certain event occur.
- Log file management.
- Go Live Monitoring – to pull back immediate, real time states from a certain device.
- Performance Baselines – baselines are created for many statistics automatically so that you don’t have to create your own baseline. This way, you know what is “normal” and what is “abnormal” for a network device or server.
- Role-based access.
- Wireless monitoring.
Can Perspective help me manage my VMware Virtual Infrastructure?
One of the newest features I want to talk about is virtualization support. As a VMware Admin myself, I was curious how Perspective could monitor the performance of my VMware Infrastructure. As it turns out, virtualization monitoring with Perspective is easy. Perspective treats VMware hosts and guest similar to other servers but it knows the relationship between the two. It knows what guest VMs are running on what host server. It can also track and alert on the performance of VMware ESX host and guests, individually. Here are some graphics that show how Perspective supports virtualization.
In this graphic, you can see how there is a tab showing all the VM guest systems and a tab for all the host systems. With Perspective is it easy to quickly check the status of all virtual machines and even sort them by their power status, performance status, network, OS, and more. You can also add these VM Guest and Host tabs as gadgets on the Perspective dashboard.
Here is what the VMware ESX host performance information looks like. This too can be added as a tab on the dashboard.
And in the graphic below, you can see how you can quickly create alerting and remediation policies based on VM hosts and Guest as Perspective recognizes them as what they are.
One of the questions I asked was whether Perspective would recognize a VM guest that moved from one ESX host to another due to a manual VMotion migration or DRS VMotion migration. The answer to that is Yes – Perspective will place that VM guest under the proper ESX host as soon as it appears on its new host system.
Let’s say that, like me, you are interested in how Perspective can help you to more easily manage and monitor your network. The next step that I recommend is to download an evaluation of it and see what it can do on your own network. I think that you will find as I did, that Perspective makes network, server, wireless, Exchange, SQL, and even VMware ESX host/guest monitoring and management easier than ever before. And let the folks at PacketTrap know what you think – my experience has been that they built the product by getting consensus from the IT community and they welcome as much feedback as possible. Better yet, I have seen that feedback actually applied and integrated into the next release.
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