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March 3, 2009

Compliance capturing audit capabilities of network automation

Change control tools spawn valued regulatory reports

By CBR Staff Writer

Network configuration and change management issues are coming to the attention of compliance officers, according to the CEO of Netcordia Inc and the time-pressed executives can see value in the audit capabilities that come with enterprise network automation tools.

Corporate audit and compliance initiatives have become drivers for the network automation market and the quality of reports that can be produced out of configuration management and control systems has become an important selling point, Don Pyle told CBR Online today.

“Businesses have to be able to pass an audit, and need reports to prove compliance. Regulations like PCI have gotten very specific about what needs to happen around every asset on a network, especially where it’s used to carry sensitive credit card details.” 

Customised reports can cost consulting dollars he said, outlining one of the draws to products like those Netcordia produces. “We can provide out of the box audit reports that are needed to meet the regulatory alphabet soup of PCI, HIPAA, SOX and other compliance obligations.”

The supplier’s NetMRI system provides administrators with views and summaries of network health that allow for detailed analysis and comparison of different networks and services, helping enterprise reduce the risk of network outages but importantly also enabling the enforcement of compliance policies. 

Gartner confirms that pressures from corporate audit and compliance initiatives are forcing network managers to investigate this type of change management tools. 

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New interfaces and some additional diagnostic capabilities that were added to version 3 of NetMRI outpace anything else on the market, the vendor believes.

The Netcordia CEO said the company competes with SolarWinds at the low end but elsewhere does not consistently meet any one single vendor. 

There are several that have some kind of network configuration management offering and Gartner says the names of AlterPoint, BMC Software, Cisco Systems, EMC, HP and Tripwire ought be included in any market appraisal of the segment.

Pyle said his development team was working on adding more analytics to its flagship NetMRI line, which will be included in a June release along with other features that will improve the scalability of the product and bring the ability to monitor a virtualised environment with the configuration management suite.

Inadvertent changes that can too often be made to enterprise networks, stand as the biggest burden on network administrators. These cause problems because they first have to identify what changes have been made, when and by who, and they then need to chase down what business service might be impacted by the change.

Configuration and change management automation is considered to be one way of addressing the issue. It is also seen as a key element toward streamlining and improving the overall effectiveness of network operations. 

One aspect Netcordia emphasises in this regard is the policy wizard that has been built in to its system, and which ships with 160 pre-set rules that can be used singly or in multiples to deploy network policies within a minute. 

This makes the product good at developing ‘gold-standard’ policies for network processes, which can be used as baseline against which network service performance can then be monitored.

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