ERCIM News No.37 - April 1999

The Changing Face of Network Management - A Hungarian Experience

by István Tétényi

TEN-155 happened the other day. TEN-34 became history after 18 months. Research networking is still fashionable. People, organisations have accustomed to the results of the Internet revolution. We take ubiquitous, instant access granted. Is it not true? Just the opposite. The situation is only seemingly under control. Networking is like teenagers with long arms and legs and short clothes. Network management is much like the caring parent that tries to meet the ‘demands’. This article tries to summarise the results that we have achieved to manage the largest slice of the Hungarian Internet of several hundred institutions.

The Network Services Department of SZTAKI (NSD) is a small ISP without the commercial chore of selling the services on the open market. NSD has been managing Hungarnet’s IP network for many years. (Hungarnet is the Hungarian Academic and Research Network Organisation, Some people define the task that we do as network operation. Well, it is true on the one hand but a bit less than the full image. It is true that we operate a network infrastructure. On the other hand, this is ever expanding in capacity and has got a wide range of technologies from ISDN to SDH.

Working in a conservative and under funded environment sometimes helps. You do not have to worry about the management approval of requested funds and the bureaucratic procedures of procurement. Although you will not end-up with glossy leaflets and boxes that are a bit outdated in the day of delivery. On the other hand, you might collect and develop a set of tools running on different platforms and providing the very services needed. Traditional network management meant that there were a few dedicated desktops from where the operators and the real techies could check the network status. The Internet revolution and the web explosion affected network management. We are somewhere halfway through. The big names (Microsoft, Cisco) are about to invade this territory. Till it happens, there is room for home-made solutions. Below you will find our approach and the results.

As in every modern organisation, the Intranet is the basic infrastructure component that supports groupwork. We (NSD) do have a loosely coupled set of tools put together in the recent years in order to manage the networks we operate. Naturally, the tools alone - without the people and procedures - cannot solve the tasks. What we use at the moment is a Network Management Intranet that was developed over the years. It has been refined and its functionality extended many times.

Network Management Intranet = several functions (tools) that are equally available for a group of people solving common tasks together.
A cornerstone of our approach is: there should not be any dedicated console for dedicated network management. We have to have tools that can be relocated in case of failures; we have to have a flexible environment where at least a group of people can share the same view of the network:

Expected future developments

We plan to introduce netflow statistics collection this year to have even more precise information about traffic characteristics. Application monitoring will be extended. We try to strengthen the database background for the tools we use. Security issues have to be refined. We plan to migrate interface statistics collection and visualisation from monster to rrdtool (mrtg, cricket). We are looking forward to directory enhanced network management. We are open to co- operate with anyone who truly believes in vendor independent tools and network management.

Please contact:

István Tétényi - SZTAKI
Tel: +36 1 349 7532

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