If you've been managing networks and/or systems for long you've probably noticed that Element Management Systems or EMSs sometimes seem to multiply like rabbits. Let's talk first about why this happens and then we'll discuss how to fix it.

The reaons that most companies end up with a bunch of EMSs that they don't need and/or use are pretty straight forward. First, pretty much everyone has at least a couple of different hardware vendors represented on their network. There are lots of reasons why this happens but for the sake of brevity let's just concede that this is a fact and move on. Now, if you're a hardware vendor, you pretty much have to provide an element manager for your gear. Not necessarily because one is needed, but because everyone else does it and if you don't then your competitors will use this fact against you to take away your customers.

So, because most hardware vendors have their own EMS, it's easy to see how their sales people would want to use this software as a way to increase the size of each deal by a few thousand dollars and it's easy to see how this is an easy thing to talk us into because, hey, we're buying some new hardware chances are that we'll need some new software from that vendor to manage it. Makes sense, right?

Now, as most of us know, EMS typically turn into one of two things withn 6 months of buying them. First, lots of EMSs end up as nothing more than a box with a CD in it and a vendor's logo on it, sitting on a shelf near our desk and collecting dust (we call this shelfware around here). Don't be embarrassed - it happens to everyone. Second, some EMSs end up staying around for a long time because there are some things that we get from that EMS that we like and/or need but we seldom ever use it because it's not a part of our everyday practice or a part of our regular NMS. So, what do you do?

If you've got a strong network management system in place there are some things that you can do to move the functionality you need from the EMS to your NMS and then retire the EMS completely. Not every NMS has this capability, but some of the newer ones and all of the next gen ones do. Orion is a great example of this and has modules and features that will help you replace several different types of EMSs. Let's walk through an example:

Let's say that you've bought some new Uninterruptible Power Sources (UPSs) from APC, Liebert, or any of the leading vendors and of course you got yourself a copy of their management software. Now, some of the data that it gives you is really cool. You can see how much power each device is using, the status of each battery, whether or not the systems are running off of backup power, how much battery life is left (assuming power isn't restored), and etc. Problem is, you really don't want to maintain a separate management application and you'd really like to have this data in Orion where you're already managing the routers, switches, firewalls, and servers that are connected to the UPSs.

To move that functionality into Orion, here are some things that you can do:

1. Check to see if the funtionality you need is already included in Orion. There are several templates, Univeral Device Poller (UnDP) configurations, and etc already built and packaged with Orion.

2. Check Thwack to see if someone else has already done this. If so, they can share the templates they created via the Content Exchange and you can import it directly into your Orion.

3. Use the MIB Browser and MIB Walk toosls within the Engineer's Toolset to discover which MIBs on the target devices contain the data that you want and then create your own UnDPs. BTW, if you do this you should share them on Thwack so other people can use them. Also, if you're not familiar with a MIB walk or what it does check out Jimmy Ray Pursor's blog post on this subject.

4. Use a protocol analyzer (Wireshark rocks!!!) to see what the EMS is doing and then replicate within Orion. This is the hardest method, but will work in almost any situation plus you get to look at packets which is always a plus :)

Well, that's enough for tonight but ping me back if you have questions or want to discuss this further. Please note that I never said that EMSs are evil - I just prefer to only have to deal with one network management system at at time...

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