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CNN CIAgent Test

May 6, 1999

Executive Summary: CNN has just successfully completed initial testing of CIAgent from SNMP Research International, Inc. CIAgent was evaluated by CNN as a candidate for providing secure, scaleable, standards-based, and seamless management of CNN's mission-critical systems and servers through intelligent agents.

CNN Internet Technologies, the group that supports the CNN Web sites, the top destination for news on the Web, is seeking to improve the monitoring and management of the servers on its Web farm. Currently, they use homegrown software with a Web interface that provides a range of information, including indicating whether servers are up and monitoring the hit rate for each server. CNN now faces the challenge of outgrowing its existing software, which no longer provides the information needed to manage the expanding Web farm adequately. They want a solution that scales up to manage the entire Web farm, while allowing them the flexibility they desire.

CNN is evaluating a new generation of SNMP agent designed to manage computing systems and the applications they host. The agent is comprised of instrumentation that allows gathering of configuration, performance, security, and fault information from the Web farm. SNMP Research International (SNMPRI) provides this agent-a product named CIAgent. CIAgent is a part of SNMPRI's new SecureIntelligence product suite. SNMPRI, a company that creates, licenses, and supports software for the management of networks, systems, applications, and legacy devices, has worked with CNN to help define and refine CIAgent.

CIAgent is based on SNMPRI's EMANATE extensible agent architecture and provides a significant set of "out of the box" information for systems and applications management. This architecture includes a built-in scripting language and subagent development kit, allowing CNN to extend CIAgent to instrument situations it does not address natively.

Paul Holbrook, Director of CNN Internet Technologies, had this to say about CIAgent after successful completion of CIAgent acceptance testing, "We've tested it and we like what we see so far. We want to find a way to deploy it across our Web farm infrastructure." Holbrook and his staff included the following required instrumentation in the acceptance criteria of the recently concluded test plan:

The CNN Internet Technologies staff has also made use of the Web server built into CIAgent to perform some agent configuration and ad hoc monitoring. The Web server enforces the same access control and authorization rules found in the SNMP agent, similar to those built on the strong authentication found in SNMPv3.

CNN's evaluation couples CIAgent with Seagate Software's NerveCenter. NerveCenter acts as the SNMP management station and provides polling, event management, and event correlation services. The CIAgent MIB documents (Management Information Base) were compiled into NerveCenter which then allowed NerveCenter to poll CIAgent. CIAgent also performed monitoring on the computing systems and sent SNMP traps to NerveCenter when:

Current plans call for a Web interface very much like the existing homegrown one to present management information about the Web farm.

CIAgent uses the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) which is the de facto standard around the world for the management of network devices. The use of SNMP to support the management of systems and applications is growing. In the past, some managers pursuing the use of SNMP to perform systems and applications management pointed out the need for better performance, an improved administrative framework, and better security options. The arrival of SNMP version 3 (SNMPv3), now an IETF Draft Standard, addresses those concerns and is causing network, system, and application managers to evaluate SNMP agents on computing systems once again. CIAgent can "talk" SNMP versions 1, 2, and 3, which positions it to support virtually any management system that implements SNMP.

Trademark Acknowledgements: CNN is a trademark of Time Warner Inc. NerveCenter is a trademark of Seagate Software, Inc. EMANATE is a registered trademark and SecureIntelligence and CIAgent are trademarks of SNMP Research International, Inc.