Expand Simplifies Network Device Management
May 17, 2005 Alex Woodie
Expand Networks yesterday unveiled an updated version of ExpandView, the wide area network (WAN) monitoring software that is also used to manage the company’s WAN optimization devices, called Accelerators. ExpandView 3.0 makes it easier to roll out a large number of Accelerator devices, and also keeps administrators informed of their WAN’s condition with color-coded graphs and charts.
ExpandView is a Java-based program that runs on Windows, Unix, and Linux servers and is designed to help network administrators manage large deployments of Expand Accelerator devices. It is not a difficult task for a person to manually manage up to 15 or 20 Accelerators devices, but with larger deployments (and Expand has some customers with hundreds and thousands of inter-connected devices), centralized management software becomes a requirement for even the most basic tasks.
The key new feature in ExpandView 3.0 is a colorful map that shows the current status of the network, and which is also used to configure Accelerators and make changes to the settings. A quick glance at the ExpandView map will tell the administrator whether everything is working well (indicated by highlighting device names in blue) or if some WAN links are nearing capacity, which is indicated with orange or red highlights.
The new release also features a range of canned “top 10 reports” that give the administrator useful information, such as which applications are using the most and least bandwidth, or which links are over- or underutilized.
Previously, users would need to pore through data listed in tables to ascertain the status of Accelerator or to get performance data, says Ariel Shulman, Expand’s vice president of product management. The concept of having all devices dynamically presented on a map that can be refreshed is an important product feature, he says. “The map also enables you to configure the system. You can right click and generate the config files.”
ExpandView 3.0 brings a nifty feature called a “virtual Accelerator” that enables a network administrator to generate the configuration files for a new Accelerator device before the Accelerator is shipped. When somebody at the remote office unwraps the Accelerator and plugs it into the wall, ExpandView then pushes those settings down to the device. “That’s very, very important for large scale deployments where you don’t want to be sending IT professionals,” Shulman says.
The capability to remotely configure Accelerator devices will also come in very handy with organizations that are creating mesh networks, as opposed to hub-and-spoke networks where there is a central control point. Mesh networks are complex to set up, because each Accelerator needs to be configured to speak with every other Accelerator on the network. However, mesh networks are also becoming very popular, because they are needed to support new distributed network workloads, such as voice over IP (VOIP) telephony. VOIP is a major driver of sales of Accelerator devices, Shulman says.
ExpandView 3.0 also introduces centralized licensing of Accelerator devices, which replaces the error prone and tedious job of going device to device, Shulman says. “A user would have to manually log in. It provided a days work for a temp.”
While ExpandView 3.0 brings a number of new reporting features, it will not negatively impact traffic, which is a real concern with network monitoring, Shulman says. “A big problem with monitoring [devices] is they add traffic, not a negligible amount of traffic to WAN,” he says. “It’s very intense to the point where it actually interferes with the WAN and the applications, which of course completely defeats the purpose.”
ExpandView addresses this problem by distributing agents to the Accelerator devices that do some pre-processing of performance data, by compressing the XML that’s sent to ExpandView, and by using a “push” architecture, as opposed to a “pull” architecture. “When data is pushed back to ExpandView, it’s done in a way that’s consistent with the quality of service in the device,” Shulman says. “So if VOIP is guaranteed 64 kbp/s, ExpandView will in no way hurt that. But if you pull the device [from ExpandView], you will get in the way.”
ExpandView 3.0, which requires Expand devices running Accelerator OS 5.0 or higher, also supports Unix and Linux. Pricing starts at $5,000 for a license for managing up to 10 devices, or $40,000 for managing up to 100 devices. The maximum number of devices that a single instance of ExpandView can manage is 500. For more information, visit www.expand.com.