HP Network Node Manager 9 : Before we Manage with NNMi (part 1) - What can HP SW NNMi do for us?

10/12/2012 8:47:30 PM

What can HP SW NNMi do for us?

A fool with a tool is still a fool

-author unknown

This old adage tells everything about what a management tool can do for us. NNMi can make life easier, but it can't do so without our carefully planned and prepared effort.

Network Node Manager is a tool which can help us to keep an eye on our network, find issues, recognize outages related to network, and help us improve our network availability and performance. Even so, it's a tool. NNMi, as any other tool, will not replace your network administrator, but will help him/her instead.

Network Node Manager—the name itself denotes that this tool is dedicated to managing networks. But let's make it clear and find out what exactly network and manage mean.

Listed here are examples of unrealistic expectations that people can have of NNMi:

  • A network administrator installs NNMi and expects that his job is taken care of, and that he can lie on a chair and wait for another paystub.

  • The manager that has approved the purchase of NNMi expects NNMi to instantly resolve all issues relating the network without any human effort.

One question that people with limited management tool knowledge may have is "why do I need these management tools if I already have a management tool for servers and another for databases"? The answer is, each tool is positioned for one specific purpose, and there is no tool for everything so far. Tool positioning is made by an activity, which tool makes and the infrastructure type it is designed for.

For such positioning, a very good example is a matrix of functionality and infrastructure coverage, where matrix columns define the infrastructure's area and rows define functionality.

In most cases, infrastructure can be divided into the following parts:

  • Peripheral devices (UPS, temperature and humidity sensors, door switches, and fluid detectors)

  • Network devices (routers and switches)

  • Firewalls and other security device servers (Hardware and OS)

  • Applications (Oracle, SQL, Web or Mail Server, CRM, ERP tools, and so on)

  • Service (e-Shop, Stock Exchange trade platform, e-Magazine, and such others)

Each part of the infrastructure can be divided into the following management areas by activity:

  • Configuration management

  • Fault and problem management

  • Performance and capacity management

  • Security management

  • Knowledge management

  • Service management

According to this tool positioning philosophy, NNMi can be positioned as a fault and performance management tool.

NNMi 8.x is fault monitoring tool, because it doesn't have performance data collection and graphing capability.

To clarify few of the other HP Software management tools are positioned in the following table:

Performance/ capacity OVPI Partly NNMi OVPI OVPI OVPI Business Availability Center
Fault   NNMi OV Operations OV Operations Business Availability Center
Configuration   Partly NNMi HP SW NAS    
  Peripheral Network Servers Applications Services

NNMi can automatically discover a network, recognize network devices and their configuration, and draw an IP map accordingly. As NNMi recognizes discovered devices, it can show what the impact for a network would be if one of the devices goes down, the interface gets disconnected, or the performance parameters (like latency) exceed set limits (threshold). Network state is mapped by NNMi using two types of information sources:

  • Messages sent from managed devices (SNMP traps)

  • Regular polls that check for device state or configuration changes

NNMi can monitor performance parameters such as interface utilization, interface errors, CPU load, or almost any other performance information that is provided by device SNMP agent. NNMi can generate a message to an incident browser if some performance parameters exceed expected limits (thresholds), or if a fault occurs in a managed device. At the same time, NNMi can't be treated as a capacity management tool. NNMi 8.x cannot collect any performance data, store it for a long time, or present an advanced performance or capacity report. NNMi 9.0 already has features such as performance data graphing and custom poller, which send incidents based on SNMP object ID or their combination. But NNMi standalone tool cannot have following features:

  • Flexible data storage

  • Performance data advanced analysis

NNMi also provides network inventory detailed data about devices that were either loaded during discovery or input manually by an NNMi operator as a custom attribute. Discovered device reports, as well as device configuration reports such as interface list, configured VLANs, serial numbers, or contact information, can be presented. NNMi cannot perform network device configuration backup or restore functions. In addition, unlike the HP Software Network Automation Service, NNMi cannot change device configuration.

On the other hand, even though NNMi is designed to manage network devices, it can discover and monitor any device with an IPV4 or IPV6 address. Due to this, workstations or servers, as well as any other devices with SNMP capability or agents designed to work with NNMi, can be used with the product. NNMi cannot be called a server management tool, as it cannot monitor server-specific hardware or software parameters of server operating systems software or hardware. All IP interfaces will be discovered on servers, but no other hardware specific information would be discovered, like number and capacity of disks, memory, CD/DVD-ROMs, and so on.

Even if NNMi cannot do much in terms of workstation or server monitoring, there are cases when server monitoring by NNMi may be valuable. Some servers or workstations must be permanently on, and they are not monitored or managed by any other tool. In such a case, nodes can be added into NNMi for state monitoring. NMMi should be selected as a monitoring tool for Server or Workstation monitoring exclusively.

Thus, we can expect NNMi to help us solve network outage issues, monitor paths, identify root cause, and monitor and report some performance issues.

Choosing the right edition

NNMi is sold in two editions:

  • Starter

  • Advanced

This allows you to choose what best suits your particular infrastructure management needs. Less complex networks do not require as many features as management tools do, such as complex networks with advanced technologies and solutions.

In order to make a decision regarding which version you should utilize, you should answer the following questions:

  • Do you need to monitor trunks and port aggregations?

  • Do you need to monitor router redundancy groups, such as HSRP or VRRP?

  • Do you need to monitor IPv6?

  • Do you plan to implement global network management solution (for example, one NNMi works as collection station and reports to another NNMi, which is a primary manager)?

  • Do you need to integrate NNMi to RAMS tool?"

If your answers to the previous questions are NO, then NNMi Starter edition is just right for you.

Also, don't forget that you can upgrade your starter edition to an advanced edition anytime as a later date. Technically, it's about entering a new license key into the software. It may be a more complicated challenge to get approval from management spending on licenses later on. This should also be taken into account when you plan which version to acquire.

So, if you are satisfied with the starter edition features for now, but think that you may need the advanced features in the future, I would recommend that you begin with the starter edition for now and upgrade later on. The following table gives you a brief comparison between starter and advanced editions:

Features NNMi NNMi Advanced
L2 and L3 discovery + +
Custom SNMP data collection (no storage) + +
Dynamic RCA + +
Management by exception + +
iSPI support + +
MPLS* + +
Multicast* + +
VoIP* + +
Performance based event correlation + +
Integration with OVPI + +
Integration with RAMS   +
Root Cause Analysis (RCA) + +
Trunks/ Port aggregation (Support for: PaGP, SMLT, MLT - protocols)   +
Router redundancy groups (HSRP, VRRP)   +
Path View visualization extension   +
MPLS WAN Clouds (RAMS)   +
Global Network Management (GNM)   +
IPv6 (on Unix)   +
Virtualized Server management   +

*—if according iSPI is used

+—the mentioned feature is supported on that edition

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