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Apr 26 2007   12:30PM GMT

Netcosm: 3-D network monitoring and performance management tool

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One of our colleagues, SearchNetworking.com’s Tessa Parmenter, wrote a provocative message to her audience this past week. In it, she commented on a new tool, Netcosm, described by Andrew Hickey in his recent article, “Network Monitoring gets a video game touch.” Here’s what Andrew had to say:

What if monitoring tools got a 3D kick and incorporated slick, video game-like graphics and sound effects to alert IT of problems on the network?

Sounds a bit goofy, but it just might work.

NetQoS, maker of tools like SuperAgent and ReporterAnalyzer, recently announced its latest creation: Netcosm, a 3D graphical representation of the network and the traffic that traverses it. It uses video game-style graphics, resembling something out of the futuristic 1980s movie Tron or early incarnations of popular games like Doom or Quake.

Netcosm, to put it simply, represents the network and the traffic that traverses it with 3-D graphics that look distinctly like those of a video game. While the tool is not yet released, Netcosm can be viewed as an online demo.

Tessa asked some provocative questions in a recent newsletter, which, with her permission, we’ve excerpted below. Please feel free to respond to with your thoughts in letters to the editor or in the comments section of this post. Do you think this is the future of networking and tech support?

Netcosm targets the younger generation of networking pros, those used to the graphics and sound effects of video games — the IT pro gamer.

What does this say to the non-gamer, networking professional? Maybe it won’t matter because the graphics are doing them a service, presenting lots of metrics all at once with quickly comprehensible images. But could this be ostracizing, or even belittling to the more informed and practiced IT pro?

My guess is no, since much of work these days feels, well, much more like work. Laughter seems to have been squeezed out of our daily work lives — no play allowed, no laughter, no games — so why not add a little joie de vivre to our work day? Isn’t this like getting paid to play video games? And isn’t that a gamer’s dream come true?

In a sense…but then what is this saying about our culture? Maybe the boundaries of work and play should not combine. If you go into this program with the mindset that you’re playing a video game, then you might want to rethink things. There are no pauses, no cheat codes, and certainly no extra lives. Once a failsafe has gone down and the bad guys have taken over your network, you’ve compromised corporate data, not just your self-esteem. And the excitement of the graphics might be tempting. Even the best network admin might want to see what happens, just this one time, when something combusts. Though unrealistic, it’s still a thought to consider. The worse things get, the cooler things look.

All in all, though, we can take this for what it is: a great way to illustrate what is going on with your network. Rather than deciphering vague alert messages, this gets the point across immediately. And, because the majority of us are image-oriented, it makes sense to represent these pertinent metrics graphically.

Do you feel differently about this? Is there something you want to add or comment on? Share your thoughts with us at SearchNetworking.com and send your message to: editor@searchnetworking.com.

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