Products that address a specific problem tend to be more efficient, easier to use and less expensive. Of course, the flip side is that network-management applications providing such simplification also offer fewer niceties. On the other hand, scaled-down versions of higher-end management products, available at greatly reduced prices, wave a magic wand at just about any FCAPS puzzle piece yet are limited in functionality.
These limitations partly revolve around what can--or can't--be done with SNMP. As a standard, SNMP is widely installed and leveraged by network-management vendors but is primarily limited to addressing the fault and performance portions of FCAPS. Frankly, even expensive network-management products are hamstrung when they rely solely on SNMP data, which is why many have proprietary agents. However, no matter what their cost, most fault and performance products do offer significant monitoring, diagnostic and planning capabilities.
Still, if you figure you're going to lose something by going with a midrange management application, you're right. You won't get high-availability and redundancy features or common object models for $10,000. Distributed event-stream filtering and correlation are out too. But you can get distributed-computing functions, like Web publishing interfaces and distributed polling.
Topological Layer 2 root cause or dynamic impact analysis? Nope. But you will get simple event and alarm management, plus these apps offer performance management, with surprising depth and ease in some cases.
Take note, however, that you won't find security accounting or configuration. This isn't surprising--packages that cover these areas are expensive and complex. Total security can't be had for less than $10,000. In fact, some say it can't be obtained even for a king's ransom (see "Secure to the Core").
We asked readers responsible for network management how they'd prioritize the FCAPS model based on two scenarios. First, we asked what areas they'd focus on if money were no object. It was no surprise that security was most important, chosen by 61 percent, followed closely by fault and performance, then trailing off a bit for configuration, with accounting bringing up the rear.