BlueCat offers help with network chores

Aiming to help administrators stay on top of their increasingly complex and mission-critical IP-based networks, BlueCat Networks recently shipped a new appliance that streamlines and centralizes many time-consuming but vital network housekeeping tasks.

BlueCat’s Proteus appliance, delivered to early adopters Nov. 15 and scheduled for general release in January 2006, helps with the provisioning of name services and management of dynamic IP allocation and IP address inventories for large networks.

The workload associated with those chores is growing as organizations expand their IP data networks to support new applications such as voice communications, wireless access and asset tracking using radio frequency identification.

Also, while the move under way to the next IP version, IPv6, opens the door to new capabilities, such as a practically unlimited number of IP addresses, it also adds to the management work.

The appliances in BlueCat’s Adonis family handle basic IP management tasks, and the company counts the Navy, Air Force, Defense Department, Federal Aviation Administration and other government agencies as customers.

Some of BlueCat’s larger customers have deployed dozens of Adonis appliances because their big, complex and geographically dispersed networks require multiple management appliances, said David Berg, BlueCat’s director of product management. However, until now administrators have lacked a way to centrally manage multiple appliances or easily apply organizationwide changes.

The company’s new Web-based Proteus appliance provides that central management capability by directly monitoring and controlling up to hundreds of Adonis appliances, involving potentially millions of IP addresses.

“Proteus enables you to translate business policies about access or usage into live configuration changes across the entire network,” Berg said. “It allows you to make network changes in minutes rather than hours or days.”

The new appliance automatically checks configuration changes before live deployment to avoid common Domain Name System errors and logs all changes in a central database so authorized administrators can modify or cancel configuration changes if needed.

For now, Proteus only controls BlueCat’s Adonis appliances, but Berg said the company will create integrations so the appliance can also manage network gear -- such as switches, routers and firewalls -- from other major vendors.

Proteus will be available in two models. The Proteus 3000 will support up to about 150 Adonis appliances and cost $30,000 to $40,000, Berg said. The Proteus 5000 will support an unlimited number of Adonis appliances and cost $50,000 to $60,000.

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