Tone Software, who makes ReliaTel data and voice-management products for managed service providers, has recently added an in-depth knowledge-base that allows administrators to have all the knowledge and tools to troubleshoot and repair problems in a single, integrated set of portlets. Combining knowledge-base documents and troubleshooting tools with traditional management platforms is a growing trend among management software vendors that should be welcomed by IT.
ReliaTel is used for managing large-scale telecom suites that use products from multiple vendors. ReliaTel provides a unified management and reporting interface so that administrators can more effectively manage their telecom products from a single management platform. ReliaTel's Operational Knowledge Base, part of their Streamline management system, offers a wealth of information to administrators.
Operational Knowledge Base is made up of six portlets. The documentation portlet contains vendor-supplied documentation based on the product that is being managed. No need to maintain a separate documentation repository. The documentation portlet can also be extended with your own documentation on a per device, department, or customer basis so that you can document change control requirements, dependencies, or anything that is pertinent to the operation of the product or system. Tone Software also supplies vendor recommended actions to solve problems. The recommended actions are tied to other parts of the management system so that context-sensitive help is available. As with the documentation portlet, you can also add your own recommended actions as needed. The manual actions portlet provides a way to run commands on remote devices without having to login to each. The log browser and attribute function provide a way to view device specific logs and attributes respectively.
Integrated documentation is helpful when dealing with cryptic logs messages. By viewing a log message, an explanation of the log message is displayed and any vendor recommended actions. The trend of how often an event has been occurring is also available. Armed with this information, administrators solve problems quickly.
Relating event definitions to log entries is a trend that is starting to take hold. Prism Microsystems has created a knowledge-base that is integrated with their Event Tracker log management system (reviewed in November, 2009), providing descriptions of events, sources for further information, and it can include user notes and recommendations, as well. Tone Software is evaluating whether it wants to add support for community-supplied notes and actions, but has yet to figure out how to have the actions vetted to ensure they work and how to share actions among customers without violating confidentiality. It's a tough nut to crack, but anything that makes IT's job easier when it comes to supporting products is a check in the win column.