Got Real Network Monitoring?

Posted on June 17th, 2007 in Networking by jed

NP_chartI work for a company called Network Physics. They make a pretty cool product, called NetSensory. Basically, you plug it into your network and feed some traffic to it (with a monitor/SPAN port, a network Tap, or a hub), and it calculates buckets of metrics about the data. Then you fire up the NetSensory Console (a java app that you download form the appliance), it sucks down the data and metrics for the time period you want, and lets you display them in about a billion different ways.

There are a lot of different products out there that I’ve played with for monitoring purposes, but NetSensory is really amazing with the variety of things you can do with it. You can use it to do all the basic stuff you are probably used to, like see who is using your bandwidth and what protocols are on the network, etc.; but you can also use it for so much more.

  • You can find and debug application performance problems. Let’s say I’ve got some database servers that are feeding my website. If they start acting up and responding slowly, I can tell with NetSensory. I can also use it to tell if the webservers are appropriately spreading the load across the database servers. Or if the webservers are responding slowly or traffic is unbalanced to them
  • You can manage changes in the network. Let’s say your boss wants to spend 50 grand on some load balancers: you can get the data necessary to determine if you should really do it, or if you should just cram a few a few extra sticks of RAM into your servers and pocket the remaining 49K (or I suppose you could let the company keep the money too).
  • You can monitor your WAN traffic for usage and SLAs.
  • You can spot worms and port scanners easily and track them down quickly.
  • You can find and identify packet loss and other problems in the network.
  • You can find rogue users or applications.
  • And much more.

But, there is a problem: you’ve gotta know what you are doing. You can’t just launch the thing and expect it to tell you everything about everything, you need ot know your network and you have to actually LOOK at the data.

And, up until very recently, there was another problem: you couldn’t try it without convincing a sales critter that you are serious and then getting a demo appliance to put in your network (of which there are a limited quantity of, so not everyone could get one even if they were serious). But now, that isn’t so much of a problem, because we’ve released a version of the product that runs in VMware. The VMware version fills two rolls: it functions as a trial that ANYONE can download and use with minimal hassle, and it can be permanently licensed for use in a small office environment. The trial version only collects data for 5 days, but you can look at the data indefinitely, and because it is VMware, it is easy to reset and start another 5-day trial. It is also limited to only 5000 packets per second, so it will only work in small office environments (but larger environments can still use it as a test on a limited network segment, and can upgrade to a “full” appliance if desired).

So head on over to the download page and check it out. I think that most Network admins will be able to get some real use out of even just the 5-day trial, even if you never buy it. (Which sounds like something the company would be scared of, but they realize that the more people use the trial and do useful things with it, the more they will realize that NetSensory really rocks, and will eventually buy the product.)

So if you want to give it a try, head on over to the download page and give it a whirl. I think you’ll be happy if you do.

Some extra details you might want to know:

  • The purchase of a license comes with Instructor Led Training (which you’ve got a decent chance of being taught by me).
  • It also comes with a year of support. Yep, support is included.
  • And perhaps one of the coolest things: NetSensory has these things called Insights that are used to display customized data in specific ways. YOU can write your own Insights that are custom for your environment, or download others that community members have written and shared from These things are amazingly powerful, you can do a ton of stuff with them, including integrate scripts (perl, shell, whatever you want) into them.

NetSensory Virtual Appliance Trial Download from Network Physics