Free Tool Debuts for Network Assessments
Andrew Conry Murray
December 21, 2012
MyITassessment is a free tool that IT administrators can use to conduct a detailed assessment of the network infrastructure, including switches and routers, servers, virtual machines and storage. Users download a virtual appliance and deploy it on to a server in the data center. The virtual appliance conducts a network discovery and then inventories devices on the network. The user can let the assessment run anywhere from a day to two weeks. The appliance then produces a detailed report that analyses the findings. RISC Networks, a consultancy, developed the appliance-based assessments it has conducted for its clients.
The appliance can identify problems such as packet loss and network oversubscription, and recommend fixes such as installing a new line card. It will also examine servers and storage. For instance, it can identify servers that are suffering memory and CPU problems or disk latency. The report generated by the appliance assigns a score to the network based on other assessments it has conducted. The score is broken down by performance, reliability, scalability and other metrics. Users can also compare their own scores against networks with a similar number of nodes.
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John Salva, director of hosting services at IT Convergence, an Oracle solutions provider, used myITassessment when he joined the company to get an overview of the company's infrastructure. "The analysis supplied very helpful information, correlated from my core to the edge of my network," he says.
Note that to get the best results for network inventory and performance analysis, users must provide the appliance with network credentials, such as Windows Domain Administrator credentials to analyze Windows systems, or vSphere credentials or ESX root logins to analyze virtual machines. RISC Networks says these credentials never leave the virtual appliance, which remains on the customer premises, and that the appliance can be deleted at the end of the assessment.
While the assessment runs locally, the data is stored on the back end using Amazon Web Services. RISC Networks says raw customer data is saved for 10 days after the assessment is concluded. After 10 days, that data is deleted. However, the service does retain the overall results of the assessment, such as the number and type of issues it detected. RISC Networks says it keeps this data so that users can compare multiple assessments over time. The data is encrypted both during transmission and at rest.
The myITassessment appliance is free, but relies on vendor sponsorship to support it. For instance, if the assessment report detects issues on the network, a customer report may include suggestions to purchase a line card from Cisco or a new switch from HP. RISC Networks says no customer data is ever shared with vendors. In addition, users have the option to select a solutions provider to help them conduct the assessment and review the reports of the result. If a user does not select a partner before using the tool, the report generated by the assessment will present information about a solutions provider.