Netcordia Puts CCIE In A Box

Netcordia's NetMRI appliances analyze the connectivity layer of router- and switch-based networks, and identify where performance and configuration issues can be brought up to established Cisco standards, said Terry Slattery, the CEO and founder of Netcordia, Annapolis, Md.

"NetMRI is a CCIE in a box," Slattery said.

A rack-mounted NetMRI capable of handling up to 16,000 ports and a smaller NetMRI appliance for networks with up to 6,000 ports are now available. Installable in under 30 minutes, NetMRI's technology uses a Web-based interface to return a daily network scorecard which rates the correctness of a switch's configuration and its stability, Slattery said.

Network administrators can use the NetMRI scorecard GUI to drill down into specific connectivity issues or problems, such as VLAN traffic flow, or if a root bridge is not selected properly. Fixes can then be performed by referencing NetMRI's set of Expert Rules, which are based on Cisco's own best practices regarding switch and router settings, Slattery said.

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NetMRI can report on certain network switching devices from Riverstone Networks and Nortell. However, the technology is essentially Cisco-centric.

Jean Pierre Garbani, vice president and research director for computer systems at Forrester Research, said that because Cisco makes up practically 90 percent of the network connectivity market, NetMRI's almost exclusive use as a Cisco diagnostic appliance cannot be considered a drawback.

NetMRI is not network monitoring technology in the sense that administrators are alerted as problems arise, Slattery said. Instead, NetMRI checks network connectivity settings in a way that can prevent monitoring technology from having to send out an alert, he said.

As for the idea that NetMRI could potentially reduce the need for businesses to enlist the services of CCIEs, one Cisco network consultant and NetMRI reseller said he sees the technology as a complement to the skills of a CCIE.

"We don't look at it as a competitor to our CCIEs," said Kevin Hynes, vice president of operations at Chesapeake NetCraftsmen, Arnold, Md. "We look at it as a tool to be more competitive in the market by helping us to gather and interpret data. [NetMRI] does the drudge work for us so we can spend more time developing a strategy."

NetMRI pricing starts at $25,000 for the 6,000-port appliance and $50,000 for the 16,000-port version.