Open Books

Reviews of Recent Titles on Open Systems Subjects

Network Management:A Practical Perspective
by Allan Leinwand and Karen Fang Conroy
second edition
338 pages, $36.76
ISBN# 0-201-60999-1

Network Reengineering: The New Technical Imperative
by James T. Geier
319 pages, $45

ISBN# 0-07-023034-X

By Gary Robson

Network Management:A Practical Perspective

The term network management probably has a different meaning for each IS professional who hears it. This book helpfully begins by defining all of the relevant terms, including what network management is. It then proceeds to cover the topic from both the beginner's perspective and that of the experienced network manager.

Leinwand and Conroy define their objectives and then dive into the subject. The book is well-structured, so information is easy to find. Each chapter begins with a mini-table of contents followed by a few paragraphs of the continuing saga of Chris, the fictitious "MegaNet" network engineer. These little chapter introductions provide continuity that helps to tie the whole book together. They also set up the subject matter of each chapter and enhance the readability of the book.

Following the text of each chapter is a summary and a brief list of recommended reading, "For Further Study." Distributing this information throughout the book seems much more useful than the typical practice of placing the bibliography and recommended reading list in an appendix at the end of the book, where everything is out of context. The text is further backed up by a 21-page glossary and a 10-page index to help you find your way through it. The glossary is outstanding, although you may need to look a bit to find what you want. For example, there is no listing for "IPX"; to find it, you must know that IPX is a Novell protocol and look in the glossary under "Novell IPX."

The authors do a good job of providing information without simply reprinting standards documents from the Internet. There are two appendices providing instructions for procuring standards documents, either online or in print form. The relevant chapters tell you which request for comment (RFC) or other document is being discussed, and refer you to the appendix so you can get the document and have it at hand. This saves the book from swelling to twice its size and ensures that you have the most up-to-date copies of those documents.

Part 1 spends seven chapters in providing an overview of network management and setting the stage for Part 2, which gets into the meat of network management protocols. A full chapter is dedicated to Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and another to Common Management Information Services/Common Management Information Protocol (CMIS/ CMIP). In the introductory text to one of these chapters, Chris points out, "The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from." This is a saying that the authors take to heart.

Part 3 discusses Management Information Bases (MIB II and RMON MIB). It is a good idea to follow the authors' recommendation and have the RFCs handy when you read these chapters. The fourth and final section is a single chapter dedicated to productivity tools. The authors avoid recommending any specific tools, while letting you know what is available and providing the information necessary to choose good software yourself.

Network Reengineering: The New Technical Imperative

This book brings the concept of proactive system management to networking. It is dedicated to the premise that planning ahead and redesigning your network on the fly will lead to higher productivity, fewer painful legacy systems and simpler network management.

As an example, Geier describes a real-world networking environment, consisting of both new equipment and equipment that has been in place for many years. Without proper reengineering and maintenance, each generation of new equipment will create a new layer of legacy systems. Documentation and procedures for the older machines will become lost or obsolete, until those systems are virtually unmaintainable. A reengineering process, however, keeps a smooth transition constantly running. When new systems are added, old ones are brought up to the latest revisions of software, and interfaces are checked for compatibility. When the end of a system's useful life is in sight, planning must begin for transferring data and functionality elsewhere on the network.

This book goes into considerably deeper detail than does Network Management: A Practical Perspective. It also gets into brand names; while Geier stops short of recommending specific products or manufacturers, he does tell you what questions to ask and provides a 24-page list of network component vendors.

Network Reengineering is well-laid out for walking you through the reengineering process. Part 1 goes through planning, Part 2 covers analysis and design, and Part 3 discusses implementation. The chapters on analysis and design start at high-level requirements analysis, with discussion of topography and topology (yes, the book explains how they differ), hardware platforms, operating systems, routers and more. From there, Part 2 proceeds step-by-step down to wiring, power requirements and uninterruptible power supplies.

Because of this structured approach, leaping into the middle of Network Reengineering could leave you thoroughly confused. I recommend reading the book from front to back. I left behind numerous bookmarks, sticky notes and dog-eared pages; it is loaded with useful tips.

Unfortunately, the index often does not help you to find the data you want. For example, there is an excellent overview of satellite communications that I wanted to go back to, but it is not mentioned in the index. However, I did find it quickly by scanning through the book for the accompanying illustrations, and "satellite communications" is also listed in the table of contents.

Geier's 16-page glossary defines its terms with a more engineering-oriented focus than the glossary in Network Management: A Practical Perspective. The choice of terms for inclusion often left me baffled, however. The glossary lists TCP but not IP, IPX or UDP. It includes the World Wide Web but not the Internet. It defines a T-1 line but not a T-3 line. Unix network administrators will appreciate the glossary listing for Unix and Posix, but this is not done for OS/2, Windows or NT.

Appendix B lists network standards, and it is a useful compendium. Like the glossary, though, it shows some odd omissions. It lists the 10base2, 10base5 and 100baseT standards, while omitting 10baseT, which is described elsewhere in the book as the version of Ethernet most organizations use. The eight-pin RJ-45 telephone connector is described, but its cousin the RJ-11, used for standard telephony and local serial communications, is not.

An interesting slip is the definition of Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) as "the successor to SLIP," while Serial Line Internet Protocol (SLIP) is said to be "a protocol superceding PPP." In other words, SLIP and PPP replace each other? In looking for clarification, you'll find neither SLIP nor PPP in the index.

Same Audience, Different Messages

These two books address the same audience: network engineers and managers. Their subject matters, however, are quite different.

Leinwand and Conroy explain how to manage a network. The focus is on troubleshooting, securing and analyzing existing networks. The authors are more interested in showing you how to find a flaw in the network quickly than in explaining why you should choose a specific protocol or type of cable.

Geier, on the other hand, explains how to redesign and modify your network. His focus is on planning ahead, avoiding obsolescence and preventing legacy systems. Network Reengineering: The New Technical Imperative gets down to the nitty-gritty of wiring specs and choosing a network operating system.

If you are taking over the responsibility for a network and need to wrap your arms around it and get it under control, Network Management: A Practical Perspective is the book for you. Its light, easy style makes it quick to read, and it is packed with fundamental and philosophical information. It is a good stand-alone introduction to the subject of network management and may go as deeply as some people will ever have to go.

If, on the other hand, you have been tasked with bringing a network up to the state-of-the-art and planning its future, look to Network Reengineering: The New Technical Imperative. It is more technical than Network Management and reads more like a textbook. It is loaded with detail and deserves a place on any network engineer's desk. It should be accompanied by other reference books to fill in a few holes, but that makes the data it does contain no less valuable.

I would not hesitate to recommend either of these books. In fact, someone performing the function of network engineer and manager would find these books complementary and would probably benefit from reading them both.

Gary Robson is founder and chief technology officer of Cheetah Systems, Inc., in Fremont, CA. He can be reached at