When you’re the one responsible for ensuring the accessibility and availability of your network, how do you get enough sleep? One good way is to use monitoring tools, such as Dartware’s InterMapper, to watch your network for you. The recently released InterMapper X and InterMapper Remote, both at version 4.0, mark a significant shift in Dartware’s flagship product. The previous version, InterMapper 3.8, was a stand-alone OS 9 application; the new release debuts as an OS X-native application that includes separate server components. Though these components don’t yet have full feature parity with the stand-alone application, the ability to deploy them separately and incorporate the new submapping feature illustrates the direction Dartware is taking the product. The server, which runs as a faceless background daemon on OS X, can be controlled from another workstation using the Java-based companion program, InterMapper Remote. With this and the addition of Windows- and Unix-based versions of the product, you now have options to deploy InterMapper in much more flexible and scalable ways.
A Family Affair
InterMapper X 4.0 includes three components: the stand-alone InterMapper X application, InterMapper Console, and InterMapper Server. InterMapper X (referred to by Dartware as “traditional” InterMapper) combines a dashboardlike user interface and a built-in SNMP polling engine. Console and Server separate these presentation and polling functions into two discrete components. The Console can be used only on systems that have the Server installed. The separately licensed companion application, InterMapper Remote, can be used from another workstation to configure and view maps stored on a Server.
Choosing the best deployment mode (stand-alone versus Server and Remote) depends on several factors. If your network isn’t too complex and you can dedicate Macs to running the stand-alone InterMapper application, this is clearly the best approach — for now. Larger, distributed networks with a mix of Mac, Windows, and Unix/Linux-based systems are better-suited to Dartware’s new server-and-remote deployment model, as it allows you to install, configure, and view maps from virtually anywhere. You’ll also be more able to take advantage of upgrades, since Dartware has indicated that it’s devoting all future development to the InterMapper Server-InterMapper Remote products.
As the name implies, InterMapper monitors your network through maps. They provide a dashboard view of the status of your network’s devices (routers, switches, servers, and even wireless access points) and services (mail, DNS, database, and so on). They can also display network traffic flow on the links between objects on the map. You can create a map manually, let InterMapper do it through auto-discovery, or use a combination of the two. With auto-discovery, InterMapper uses SNMP and ICMP probes to discover your network’s devices and services and then prepares a map that diagrams the network. This is a time-saver, but if you need (or are limited by license) to monitor only specific devices and services on your network, you should create your maps manually.
The map uses shapes and icons to display devices and services whose pop-up windows can contain a variety of information about them. Maps in InterMapper are apt to have more than one object for a single device, especially for servers in which you typically monitor several services (mail, database, and so forth) on a particular host. A significant new feature is the Map Status probe: on any map you can have an icon that — through color changes — shows the condition of another network. (Dartware calls these networks “submaps.”) Using InterMapper Remote, you can easily open that submap for detailed status information.
InterMapper comes bundled with numerous TCP, UDP, and SNMP probes to test a variety of services, including 4D Server, POP, SMTP, HTTP, DNS, and DHCP. Dartware’s probes are designed to simply test whether a service on a specific port is responding properly, but you can customize them to test response to a specific query on a particular TCP or UDP port.
Once your maps are built, you need to let InterMapper know when and how to inform you of interruptions in device or service availability. You do this by establishing thresholds and specifying notification via audible or visible alerts, e-mail, paging, or traps sent to another SNMP console. We found the notification features to be powerful and flexible enough to serve the needs of almost any organization.
Look but Don’t Touch
InterMapper relies solely on SNMP and ICMP (ping) for monitoring the state of your network. As a result, it collects only limited information for devices, like software-based routers that don’t support SNMP. Because there are no client agents to act on your behalf, you cannot control (shut down, restart, or transfer files to and from) the hosts InterMapper monitors.
Given Dartware’s announced shift in development, we’re anxious to see all of InterMapper’s features — especially strip charts that display statistics like network traffic over time — ported to InterMapper Remote. That process should be a smooth one: since InterMapper Remote is a Java application, Dartware doesn’t need separate code for Mac, Windows, and Unix/Linux platforms.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Scalability clearly differentiates InterMapper. Whether you’re responsible for managing a large multisite network for a single enterprise or several networks, InterMapper’s submapping feature gives you quick visual cues to network issues on disparate networks. Its reliance on SNMP and its agentless deployment model limits its management capabilities, but for monitoring your mission-critical servers and network components, it’s mature, scalable, and cost-effective. We recommend that you consider an InterMapper Server-InterMapper Remote deployment to quickly take advantage of Dartware’s development efforts.