It is a problem that any network operations manager will be familiar with – as well, no doubt, as a fair number of IT directors. Managing, maintaining and updating a network of any size and complexity can be a labour-intensive, time-consuming, costly and, above all, error-prone task. That was the particularly acute challenge faced by Dale Hecht when he ran the vast IP network for US telecoms giant MCI in the 1990s.
Several times a day, either MCI’s own network or a network it was managing on behalf of a major client would suffer a glitch, and Hecht would have to field the inevitable complaints. All he could do was turn loose his army of highly-paid engineers to roughly pinpoint the source of the problem, and then have them manually check the set-up and configuration of all the devices in the affected area.
The crux of the problem was that networking devices were so complex that configuring and updating them remained a largely manual task; error rates typically ran as high as 40%.
After MCI was acquired by WorldCom, Hecht eventually left the company and set up a start-up called Intelliden to develop software to solve this kind of problem. The result, after two years of development, are management tools under the R-Series moniker that promise to unify the various network devices and simplify their configuration and ongoing management.
The tools plug into more than 350 different devices and operating systems. The individual instructions for these networking hardware devices are kept in a directory. Instead of applying these instructions individually, users are able to build and apply unified policies across the network.
For example, an organisation might want to close a particular port associated with a security scare and could apply this policy to all network devices at once from the R-Series console. Before, they would have had to apply such a policy individually on a device-by-device basis, says Intelliden’s European vice president, Ravi Pather.
It is a compelling vision, but these are still early days for Intelliden. Its small number of customers are split between network operators, such as BT, and major corporates. However, it claims an average return on investment of six months – a claim that should persuade others to take a closer look.