Networking

Is pt360 the all-in-one Cisco tool we've been looking for?

Like most of you, I love finding new tools that help me manage and troubleshoot routers. But what if you had to choose just <em>one</em> network management and troubleshooting tool? Do you think there's one tool out there that's really "best of breed"? If there is, I think I may have found it.

Last year, I wrote an article about compiling the ultimate list of Cisco administration tools ("What's the best Cisco router configuration and management tool?"). I listed what I thought were some of the best tools out there, and TechRepublic members chimed in with a ton of comments and recommendations.

Like most of you, I love finding new tools that help me manage and troubleshoot routers. But what if you had to choose just one network management and troubleshooting tool? Do you think there's one tool out there that's really "best of breed"? If there is, I think I may have found it.

Meet PacketTrap pt360 Tool Suite

In my opinion, it's difficult to find a strong "all-in-one" tool that really can provide all the router management and troubleshooting help you need. Recently, I discovered the pt360 Tool Suite from PacketTrap, which offers both a free version and a professional version that's currently in beta.

This tool suite is a one-stop shop for router management and troubleshooting. Here are some of the things this tool can do for you:

  • Ping Scan
  • Graphical Ping
  • DNS Audit
  • Port Scan
  • MAC Scan
  • SNMP Scan
  • Trace Route
  • TFTP Server
  • Traffic Jam
  • WHOIS
  • Syslog
  • Cisco Configuration Management Editor

These are tools any network administrator needs for general network troubleshooting. However, this tool suite also offers some specific help for Cisco administrators in its free public beta of the professional version.

  • It includes a centralized repository for Cisco router configuration, allowing you to edit, upload, and download IOS configuration files.
  • The Router Configuration Editor displays router configurations and automatically compares the running to the startup configuration, color-coding the results.
  • It can decrypt any type-7 router password.
  • You can use it to upload or download router configurations as long as you have the SNMP community strings or Telnet passwords with the proper permissions.
Figure A offers a snapshot of the Cisco Configuration Editor.

Figure A

Figure A

In addition, while not Cisco-specific, all of the other tools are very necessary for any administrator troubleshooting a network. For example, if you received a complaint that a remote Cisco WAN connection is running slow, you could use the Graphical Ping feature to graph the response of the LAN interface on that router, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Figure B

Five things that make the pt360 Tool Suite stand out

So what sets the pt360 Tool Suite apart from the myriad tools out there?

1. The name pt360 comes from the idea that the tool offers a 360-degree view of your network. But it also means that you have all the tools in one place. That means you don't have to download and learn so many different tools, and you don't have to worry about buying multiple tools, updating multiple tools, or copying and pasting from one tool to another.

2. The pt360 Tool Suite lets you define "device groups" and use those groups throughout every tool in the suite. For example, let's say you created a device group called "all routers" on your network. You could then do a Ping Scan on all routers, all at once, just by selecting that group and clicking Run, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Figure C

This is a definite timesaver. In fact, I've saved every manually entered DNS name or IP address so I can quickly use these tools on any of the devices I've used them on in the past.

3. As you can see in Figure C above, no longer do you have to be "single-threaded." There are tabs across the top of the interface, and you can allocate different tabs to perform different tasks and then change back and forth between the tabs. In addition, you can create a dashboard, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Figure D

5. I know many of you out there don't have the luxury of specializing only in network administration and must also do some server administration. With pt360, you can monitor your servers and network devices from the same interface, using the same dashboard console.

6. PacketTrap is big on community involvement. The top of every page of the application includes a Give Feedback link, and they really listen. In fact, the first time I saw pt360, it didn't offer any Cisco administration tools; the company added them in the latest version because of demand from its current user base.

Download the free version

Want to try out this new tool for yourself? We've got it right here on our site. Download it from TechRepublic, and give it a whirl.

Conclusion

At the end of the month, PacketTrap plans to release a non-beta professional version of pt360, which will include some more advanced features such as network mapping, discovering, inventory management, Windows Active Directory monitoring, and the Cisco Configuration Editor. While this version will cost money, the free version will still be available.

In my opinion, pt360 is a great all-in-one tool for both Cisco network management and more general troubleshooting.

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28 comments
Rane2001
Rane2001

I installed the beta version and tried to use the tftp. Here is the problem I had. I tried to back up an IOS from my 2610xm router which is 25MB give or take and I stopped it at over 1.5 hours and it was still not done. I tried it with the solar winds tftp and I has done in a few minutes. Has anyone encountered this problem? Is it because its beta that this happened?

ksuriamoorthy
ksuriamoorthy

ZipTie (http://www.ziptie.org) is an open source network configuration management product (support more than 30 different types of devices and runs on Windows, Linux, and MacOSX).

rpettus
rpettus

I'm going to download software tomorrow and compare to our current NMS. I'll update later this week.

uhuser
uhuser

Why do I have to create a login?

aaron
aaron

Looks like a Windows program, ergo by definition it cannot be the all-in-one Cisco tool we've been looking for.

oji
oji

I had high hopes for this product but wasn't able to install & use it. The software wants to register a user via the web and because we operate on a closed network (meaning not connected to the internet) I was not able to do this and, thus, never able to login and start the program. My plan was to evaluate the program for a potential purchase for the professional version. Too bad!!! $$$ lost for Packet Trap.

Barsoom
Barsoom

Has anyone read the EULA? "CONSENT TO COLLECT INFORMATION; USE OF DATA The Software and Service may collect certain information that resides on your computer, including, without limitation, statistics relating to how often the product and tools are started and completed, performance metrics relating to the Software, and configuration settings. This information collected will be sent to PacketTrap Networks and may be used by PacketTrap Networks without restriction." Don't think I want that on my network.

zloeber
zloeber

I started downloading this product like 2 months ago and canceled the download for some reason or another. Just yesterday I got an e-mail from them asking if there were any issues or anything that they could do because my download was incomplete. So, that being said, it seems like quite a conscientious company to watch their logs that closely. I'll have to take the product for a whirl for real this time :)

steve
steve

You need to have a PacketTrap account to use this software and amazingly for a network tool, there doesn't appear to be any way to configure a web proxy for the software to use when 'signing in' in order to launch the application. Really poor!

network_e
network_e

The really good news is that a previous post was from their VP of Products and he offered his phone number to speak with him personally. Not many software companies give you that kind of access.

omniadeo
omniadeo

The thing I like about pt360 (at least what they say so far) is that there is no node limitation. For Manage Engine, with my measly 600 nodes, I am going to have to shell out 4 Grand! Anyway, the free stuff is working for me and I am an optimist, and I will keep watching these guys.

giadich
giadich

I ended up writing my own tools called Pinkie. www.ipUptime.net

KernelPanic
KernelPanic

If the tool is Windows only then it is out. Some of us do not use Windows -- nor do we have any desire to.

s31064
s31064

It's quite possible that there's a way around this. I believe the registration is due to the fact that it's a beta product right now. I just downloaded it myself so I can't give you a first person review, but the reviews above all seemto point to a pretty decent product. Try the contact below (he provided the info above) to see whether it can be registered offline or not registered at all. Matt Bolton VP, Products PacketTrap Networks 415-348-0700 x117 or mbolton@packettrap.com.

Barsoom
Barsoom

Well, that explanation sounds reasonable. The whole thing is still a little scary, although I guess we really don't have a guarantee that ANY software we use isn't reporting back to the vendor. I sound a little paranoid, don't I? Hopefully, this one will prove trustworthy.

Nonapeptide
Nonapeptide

Or perhaps Mr. Bolton could shed some light on why this is necessary and if this will ever be removed. The "Because it helps us make the product better for you" line doesn't make me feel better. If you want to make something better for me, ask me what I like and don't like, use and don't use, want and don't want, etc. I can't help but feel the littlest bit condescended, as if my personal opinion and professional insights aren't worth the effort. As if I can't evaluate a product and articulate my thoughts and usage patterns. Can't such a "beacon" be used just for the beta testers or for those who opt in to the program? Microsoft even allows you to opt out of their user experience "spy" features (or so they let us think. I still wonder what messages are being sent back to the mothership without my knowledge). Don't spy on me and my organization. That makes both me and my organization nervous. Nervous admins are not Good Things. In fact, chances are that even if I didn't mind the information gathering (which I do, regardless of any contrary argument that may use the words 'harmless' or "non personally identifying") my organization will probably mind and might very well stop the PO if they found out about it. If a company found out about it after it was purchased and installed, the results might involve a very long talk with my boss and, depending on the level of security required at the workplace, a short walk to the parking lot (with a complimentary security guard escort). There seem to be plenty of robust open source network management / monitoring solutions out there, no?

taylortn
taylortn

It all depends how much the suite will cost. If your looking for a tool set that is mature, check out SolarWinds Engineers Edition.

stevenmgoodman
stevenmgoodman

They actually released proxy support last week. Steve, just click HELP | CHECK FOR UPDATES and you'll get a new version that has proxy support. Or you can download again at from PacketTrap at www.PacketTrap.com.

Justin James
Justin James

That may not always be the case, though. I talked to PacketTrap's CTO a few weeks ago (my write up is here: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/programming-and-development/?p=602). Their language mix makes it possible that we could see this tool on *Nix systems. He hinted that they may consider a port of the C# code to Mono. :) Of course, that doesn't change the present. But I do wonder how many networks out there do not have a single Windows box that this could be installed on. J.Ja

packetguy
packetguy

Hi Barsoom and Nonapeptide, We do not take any information about you, your network, your business, nothing. I can?t be more emphatic when I say NOTHING. The product is in beta. And because we are in beta, we have a user license agreement that allows us to see if it has been registered and if the features are being tested. The top menu bar of the software and our web site clearly state beta. However, after the beta is complete starting 3/1, that section will be removed from the EULA. There will only be opt in/out option and we collect only registration and feature usage information if the user allows us to. We solicit and invite feedback. Just like our ?Give Feedback? link in pt360 that goes directly to me, engineering and support, I am always available to you at 415-348-0700 x117 or mbolton@packettrap.com.

network_e
network_e

The Solarwinds Toolsuite is an old crusty windows 95 looking application with zero integration. What i liked about the packettrap applicaton was the ability to flow data results between / through the tools, the integration of monitoring with actual diagnostics, and the snappy cool UI. Dont get me wrong, i like SolarWinds, but this product seems strong based on the little usage i've done so far.

OldMarine
OldMarine

The program had some hope. What is this crap Mono. Sounds like a teeny bopper sickness. Why would anyone want that MS copy of crap on their box. But No Unix or Linux no use.

hiltonr
hiltonr

Nonapeptide said; "Had I looked into this matter more thoroughly, this interchange could have been avoided." I actually think it turned out OK. With the good response from PacketTrap, I now have a much warmer feeling in my tummy than if this exchange had not taken place. It's good to question vendors and their response is what most of us use to gauge whether or not to trust them.

Nonapeptide
Nonapeptide

::The product is in beta. And because we are in beta,:: I rushed to judgment without looking into the facts of the matter. For that I ask your pardon. ::However, after the beta is complete starting 3/1, that section will be removed from the EULA. There will only be opt in/out option and we collect only registration and feature usage information if the user allows us to.:: So nice! That's the way I prefer feedback systems. :: We solicit and invite feedback. Just like our ?Give Feedback? link in pt360 that goes directly to me, engineering and support, I am always available to you at 415-348-0700 x117 or mbolton@packettrap.com. :: Had I looked into this matter more thoroughly, this interchange could have been avoided. A lesson learned on my part (hopefully, although that's not the first time I've rushed to judgment :-/ ).