Computer Associates International has begun shipping a product that promises to collect network and systems management data through a technology stack and boost system visualisation and analysis operations.
Network Forensics is one of the first products to be rolled out as part of the Sonar technology CA began to demonstrate at its CA World 2003 conference in Las Vegas.
Sonar, which is enabled, in part, by software that CA acquired last summer from defence contractor Raytheon, deconstructs any bit of traffic or content on a network, such as an e-mail or a database transaction, and maps it to its physical location in the network.
According to Mark Barrenechea, senior vice-president of product development at CA, Sonar will help IT staffers better understand its function relative to the overall business.
Ultimately, CA believes the technology will enable a more sophisticated and highly automated way to exploit enterprise hardware resources on demand. Those resources are most likely to be built around low-cost Linux blade servers, reducing IT head count and costs.
Network Forensics, which officially shipped last week, can collect information about network traffic and content, analyse it and report it back to the Unicenter management console.
According to Barrenechea, Network Forensics could detect whether someone had sent an inappropriate file such as e-mail or source code. The application would run on a network server and IT staff would designate on what parts of a network to collect information.
CA is also working on an allied product called Network Diagnostics, due out early next year, which can "look at patterns of network behaviour" in real time, map out traffic, compare it with historic data and establish performance benchmarks. This, in turn, can be used to create alarms if preset parameters are violated.
By creating a virtual topology of a network, the software can detect where aberrations - such as an unauthorised web server - might be causing problems in performance, he explained.
Also planned is Business Process Maps, which will allow IT staff to see enterprise assets that are supporting a given operation over a network "with minimal to no labour", Barrenechea said. That will bolster management operations, boost resource availability and enable modelling and network segmentation by business process.
That application should be available in the first half of 2004.
According to Rich Ptak, an analyst at consulting firm Ptak & Associates, the Network Forensics tool will allow network administrators to analyse traffic or content patterns in a network to pinpoint real or potential glitches, as well as help visualise the network data flows.
This is an important move by CA into automated, intelligent analysis of network operations which ties performance to business service delivery, he added.
Marc L Songini writes for Computerworld