Network monitoring with the SevOne Performance Appliance

Scott Lowe takes the SevOne network monitoring appliance for a spin and provides screenshots of the dashboards and alerts that you can use to monitor performance.

If you can't measure it, you can't fix it and you can't adequately manage it. Of course, the "it" in this sentence can be any number of things and there are products on the market that can monitor-measure-just about every aspect of a technology environment, enabling IT staff members to make intelligent decisions both proactively and reactively. Without the right monitoring tools, IT staff members are left to work in primarily a reactionary mode, which doesn't generally serve the organization in the best possible way.

In this article, I'm going to provide you with an overview of SevOne, the maker of a comprehensive infrastructure monitoring (SevOne Performance Appliance Solution or SevOne PAS) provides technology staff with monitoring, troubleshooting, and performance management capabilities.

SevOne PAS is available in a scalable way, both physical and virtual, and supporting anywhere from just a few up to around 60,000 unique devices. Further, the company makes available a product they call the SevOne Dedicated NetFlow Collector (SevOne DNC) that supports up to 1,000 NetFlow interfaces. (Get self-service quote on pricing of solutions.)

Upon initially logging in to the product, you're provided with an at-a-glance high level overview page like the one shown in Figure A. In this figure, the long red bar across the screen is a timeline showing you the worst status of any device at that particular time. This provides you with an easy way to identify when the environment had issues. The reason that it's all red here is that I'm logged into a demo system provided by SevOne, so there are a variety of test devices showing errors. Below the timeline, you also see two other boxes providing quick information. One, aptly named Instant Status, gives you a look at status by monitoring groups and the box to the right, named Alerts, allows you to quickly understand the severity of outages in the monitored environment.

Figure A

A high level overview of the monitored environment (click images to enlarge)
Most often, administrators want to understand what's going wrong in the environment so that appropriate action can be taken. In Figures B and C, you can see two different views of the main Alerts page, which is accessible by clicking anywhere in the alerts section on the screen in Figure A. Figure B gives you a look at the raw alerts while Figure C gives you a look at alerts grouped by device.

Figure B

Alerts grouped by severity

Figure C

Alerts grouped by device
Back on the home screen in Figure A, I explained that there was an instant status area that gave you a look at your environment on a per group basis. Administrators can create groups of monitored elements to get a complete look at, for example, the items that comprise a single application. In this way, IT staff can gain a better understanding for how a particular outage is affecting a business-critical application. This is shown in Figure D. You will note that I've selected a red box under the SalesForce group. Selecting this box popped up a window giving me a bit more detail.

Figure D

More information about the instant status
Note the three icons at the top of the information box in Figure D. There are two there of interest that we haven't seen yet-Device Summary and Object Summary. The Object Summary page is shown below in Figure E and provides some high-level details about the object from an overall availability perspective.

Figure E

Summary information for the selected object
The device summary provides a lot more interesting information, which just happens to be viewable in Figure F below. Here, you see that there are stats for the CPU, memory and interfaces on that device.

Figure F

A deep look at a single device
By clicking on one of the interfaces, you can expand the graphs to get more detail, as shown in Figure G.

Figure G

Get more interface details
Let me go back for just a second and describe something that I'm not quite as enamored with in the SevOne product. In Figure H, you see a whole lot of green boxes and a couple of yellow ones in Instant View. While this view gives me a way to see what is yellow or red, what happens if I want to look at one of the green boxes? What happens if all of the boxes are red? This view seems to be helpful only if there are a very small number of elements in alert. As that number grows, it just becomes a sea of red with no discernible ordering.

Figure H

The "sea of green" doesn't provide any identifier
We've looked at some of the "reactive" elements of the SevOne product, so let's take a look at something a bit more proactive. Capacity planning is an important consideration in any organization. Understanding when a particular resource may hit exhaustion helps CIOs make better decisions regarding purchases. To assist, SevOne provides a capacity planning dashboard much like the one shown below in Figure I. In each of the graphs, notice that there are stats and there are also straight lines that cross the entire graphing plane. These lines may run at an up or down angle. This line shows the resourcing trend that is being observed based on the historical information at the tool's disposal. This capacity planning view is one of the dashboards available in the demo I was provided. In Figure J, you can see a list of dashboards in the demo.

Figure I

Capacity planning in action

Figure J

A list of dashboards in the demo
Figure K shows you the Data Center dashboard in the demo. Because there is a lot of good information here, I wanted you to see it. This makes it simple for IT staff to see exactly what's going on. Figure L gives you a look at the bottom part of the same dashboard.

Figure K

The Data Center dashboard

Figure L

Data center dashboard, part 2
A picture is generally worth a thousand words. The SevOne product allows you to add a map to the monitoring environment and monitoring items from it. In Figure M, you'll see green, yellow and red dots on the map and also object details for one that I've selected. As was the case before, you can continue to drill down into more details.

Figure M

A map of the network
Another feature in the product is a NetFlow reporting tool that SevOne calls FlowFalcon. You can see FlowFalcon in action in Figure N.

Figure N


Overall, I liked the SevOne Performance Appliance Solution with a couple of downsides. Being nitpicky, I didn't find the instant alerts page all the useful. Further, when I adjusted the monitoring timeframe to, for example, show the previous month of data rather than the previous 24 hours, I wish it had maintained the selected time horizon as I drilled down. Rather than doing so, I needed to reselect my desired time frame.

If I were rating the tool, I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.