Startup goes open source to tangle with the big boys, but its mSuite offering has some growing up to do.

Michael Biddick, CEO, Fusion PPT

January 10, 2008

4 Min Read

MANAGING MANAGERS

Monolith also shines as an event manager of managers. With its ability to receive syslog and SNMP traps as well as feeds from any other management system, mSuite can discover and poll devices on a regular basis. In environments where SNMP isn't supported, Monolith offers a TL1 collector/aggregator that can dramatically reduce costs by letting a single collector manage multiple TL1 devices. In addition, mSuite can read SNMP SysOIDs; this lets you manage and group just about any device you can communicate with. Cisco serial numbers can also be discovered and imported into the system.

One feature we really liked is the ability to set a device priority, say for core infrastructure boxes or systems with SLAs, that can be multiplied by issue severity and produce a score. This ensures that the network operations center focuses on critical outages when they occur.

The discovery process is initiated from an IP range or by scanning a seed file. Monolith will discover WMI devices, NT event logs, and the rest of your network infrastructure. IT can easily track devices using an included contextual search capability.

Unfortunately, this version of mSuite does not provide root-cause analysis or topology information, although they're on Monolith's road map. These are major omissions given that Monolith is chasing large BSM vendors, for whom topology and root-cause analysis are table stakes. Midsize environments may be able to get by with manual network topology development, and the Monolith dashboard can be used to suppress events. However, large, complex deployments should look elsewhere or wait for Monolith to catch up.

Monolith has a performance management and metrics manager that can take the place of products like InfoVista, SolarWinds, or eHealth. It can also augment those apps as a manager of managers. Our installation included the Metric Manager availability and performance component, although we received a PHP Exception error that required opening a support ticket when launching.

Metric Manager lets IT see average bandwidth and peak utilization, discards, and a host of other useful metrics, as well as host usage and IP SLA data. You can run with the more than 30 predefined metrics, covering latency, jitter, packet loss, CPU load, and more, or define custom metrics with a click of the mouse. We could control performance polling here, but the application doesn't have bandwidth-throttling capabilities. This would be nice to see. We also ran our installation inside a virtual machine, something we wouldn't recommend because we had polling performance issues.

SMOOTH SAILING

The difficulty of maintaining network management systems once they're deployed is the stuff of IT nightmares. Happily, Monolith integrates administration into a single interface, so you'll never need to open a command line for an admin function--everything is done via the GUI. IT can integrate user access into Radius and LDAP in seconds, so you don't even need to worry about setting up new users.

For those with existing device rules, a simple conversion process is provided. You may need a day or so of cleanup per 20 to 25 rules files. The rules file architecture also supports a three-tier structure consisting of base rules and subfunctions, as well as a lookup to a database of rules files. This could be handy for large organizations that want to store rules in a master configuration system.

Notification and filters can be created without any knowledge of SQL. A simple point-and-click GUI defines the types of events and alerts to be sent when there's an outage. Reporting is also very straightforward.

As mentioned, a typical installation is $80,000. Pricing is based on individual components of the product you choose, and Monolith also offers a flexible, device-based pricing model. While the company is gutsy to compete against the Big Four, mSuite's rough edges will concern large organizations. However, if you already use open source products--or simply can't afford the up-front costs of more established vendors--and are willing to work with Monolith on customization, mSuite is worth a serious look. Those with strict standards on operating systems, database usage, and documentation, however, should stick with the larger vendors until Monolith matures.

THE REPORT: Pull Yourself Together

Streamlined IT is competitive IT.
Here's how to use risk to solidify your policy management strategy

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About the Author(s)

Michael Biddick

CEO, Fusion PPT

As CEO of Fusion PPT, Michael Biddick is responsible for overall quality and innovation. Over the past 15 years, Michael has worked with hundreds of government and international commercial organizations, leveraging his unique blend of deep technology experience coupled with business and information management acumen to help clients reduce costs, increase transparency and speed efficient decision making while maintaining quality. Prior to joining Fusion PPT, Michael spent 10 years with a boutique-consulting firm and Booz Allen Hamilton, developing enterprise management solutions. He previously served on the academic staff of the University of Wisconsin Law School as the Director of Information Technology. Michael earned a Master's of Science from Johns Hopkins University and a dual Bachelor's degree in Political Science and History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Michael is also a contributing editor at InformationWeek Magazine and Network Computing Magazine and has published over 50 recent articles on Cloud Computing, Federal CIO Strategy, PMOs and Application Performance Optimization. He holds multiple vendor technical certifications and is a certified ITIL v3 Expert.

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