The International Organization for Standardization has developed a framework for the management of networks in their Structure of Management Information (SMI) standard. The framework divides network management processes into 5 main functional areas – Fault, Configuration, Accounting, Performance, and Security management. Commonly referred to by the acronym FCAPS, each area relates to a high-level IT management process.
Fault management is concerned with detecting network faults, logging this information, contacting the appropriate person, and ultimately fixing a problem. A common fault management technique is to implement an SNMP-based network management system – such as HP OpenView or Sun Solstice (formerly Net Manager) – to collect information about network devices. In turn, the management station can be configured to make a network administrator aware of problems (by email, paging, or on-screen messages), allowing appropriate action to be taken. SNMP and its functions will be looked at in more detail shortly.
Configuration management is concerned with monitoring system configuration information, and any changes that take place. This area is especially important, since many network issues arise as a direct result of changes made to configuration files, updated software versions, or changes to system hardware. A proper configuration management strategy involves tracking all changes made to network hardware and software. Examples include altering the running configuration of a device, updating the IOS version of a router or switch, or adding a new modular interface card. While it is possible to track these changes manually, a more common approach is to gather this information using configuration management software, such as CiscoWorks 2000. CiscoWorks 2000 will be looked at in more detail later in the chapter.
Accounting management is concerned with tracking network utilization information, such that individual users, departments, or business units can be appropriately billed or charged for accounting purposes. While this may not be applicable to all companies, in many larger organizations the IT department is considered a cost center that accrues revenues according to resource utilization by individual departments or business units.
Performance management is focused on ensuring that network performance remains at acceptable levels. This area is concerned with gathering regular network performance data such as network response times, packet loss rates, link utilization, and so forth. This information is usually gathered through the implementation of an SNMP management system, either actively monitored, or configured to alert administrators when performance move above or below predefined thresholds. Actively monitoring current network performance is an important step in identifying problems before they occur, as part of a proactive network management strategy.
Security management is not only concerned with ensuring that a network environment is secure, but also that gathered security-related information is analyzed regularly. Security management functions include managing network authentication, authorization, and auditing, such that both internal and external users only have access to appropriate network resources. Other common tasks include the configuration and management of network firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and security policies such as access lists.