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The End All of Network Performance Management

The distinction between these performance products and fault- or exception-based network management products (aka managers of managers, reviewed in "Hot MoMs,") is blurring. Fault-based products combine performance data with the events and alerts that make up their fault data. They gather that data from many sources, whereas performance products gather events by polling a device, recognizing that the device is over threshold and then collecting the threshold violation event. Most performance products won't collect events or alarms from external sources.

Furthermore, fault products generally don't offer the perspective provided by high-level health views on application-, systems- and network-performance products, mainly because of limited performance data analysis. Performance products filter, abstract and condense underlying performance statistics, creating a synapse between business and IT. This is the point at which the collected performance data becomes useful information. The best products go beyond putting a number on overall health; they attempt to determine the root cause of a problem.

Monitoring the Managers

We tested Argent Software's The Argent Guardian 6.0a, Compuware Corp.'s Vantage 8, Concord Communications' eHealth Suite 5.0.2, NetScout Systems' nGenius Performance Manager 1.4, NetQoS' SuperAgent 3.0 and ProactiveNet 4.1.2 from ProactiveNet. We rated these packages' reporting, root-cause analysis, data collection, implementation, administration, pricing and "gotchas."

All the products include good canned reports, flexible report writers and browser-delivered formats. But each product partitions reports and delegates control over content and format differently. One key capability that separated the winners from the losers in our tests was root-cause analysis. Our Editor's Choice, ProactiveNet, used this functionality to get to the heart of our IT problems.

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