Network Instruments Observer 12 review

Price when reviewed

When we last reviewed Network Instruments’ Observer network-analysis software (web ID: 86822), we praised its comprehensive range of monitoring and analysis tools. It’s now even better.

Top of the list is support for IPv6, which is becoming more important on WANs as mobile devices proliferate. MultiProtocol Label Switching (MPLS) analysis is also included. MPLS is becoming more widespread as its use in VPNs and routers increases. And while MPLS may confer benefits for overall network throughput, conventional network-monitoring tools can’t handle such data accurately, so the ability to monitor and analyse this traffic is a timely addition. You can also specify which of the MPLS label layers to examine. The MultiHop Analysis feature has been extended to allow packets from multiple probes to be captured simultaneously; the results can then be used to generate connection graphs to help identify network bottlenecks.

Installation is straightforward. The network-discovery tool makes a useful first stop, identifying all the devices on the network. You can then set up packet captures and start analysing traffic straight away. Observer’s ability to interpret the data and suggest remedies to problems sets it apart from the rest. Remote probe software can be installed on systems to obtain more detailed information from critical points.

Application analysis can be applied to individual servers, giving the opportunity to monitor traffic associated with applications such as email and web servers. Observer also supports switches and routers that use SNMP.

Statistical displays abound. Bandwidth use and protocol usage data can be useful in diagnosing performance problems, although the Top Talkers display would be the first choice when users complain about poor response times.

Trend reporting is a major feature of Observer. When combined with the data from its comprehensive analysis tools, it can produce reports that help identify problems and determine the effect on the network of changes in hardware and software. Network trending can be set to run continuously with the results displayed on the Trending Dashboard. VoIP quality can now be included in the trending display, too. Running network trending over a period of time generates historical data that can later be used as a comparison with real-time results.

Reports can be defined as required and produced on a scheduled or ad hoc basis, although there is a set of predefined reports. As these are available through a web browser, many items offer links to access more detailed information.

In all, Observer 12 puts a wide range of network monitoring and diagnostic software at your disposal in one simple but effective package.

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