Centralized system for network status monitoring

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Project Proposal

- An empirical study on network status monitoring and developing a network monitor with automatic network map creation, failure alert system, remote device configuration and third party application support

1. Introduction

In a certain point on the path of computer evolution people realized the necessity of sharing of information between two or more computing devices. Starting from the first packet switching network called ARPAnet (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) (Bellis n.d.), computer networks developed to the level we experience today. Since the first ever computer network people started to depend on computer networks to deliver their information reliably and in a time conscious manner. This dependability raised the importance of availability and functionality of computer networks.

Computer networks cannot be 100% reliable. But identifying problems quickly can make networks much more reliable. In a complex network scenario finding a fault can be very difficult. Centralized network status monitoring system can help in situation like this by finding the fault quickly and by alerting as soon as an error occurred in the system. Automated network mapping will reduce and simplify the configuration of system. Remote device management will help resolving problems remotely and doing configurations remotely. Third party tools for traffic monitoring and remote administrating can also be integrated to the system. It will widen the scope of the system and will provide number of new functions. Internet usage, link utilization monitoring and remote assistant are some of those functions. This project allows me to apply and improve my knowledge I gained from MSc Computer Networks and Security when designing, implementing and testing the system. Furthermore the practical training I got and the protocols I learned will be needed while developing the system.

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For finishing this system it will require more studying of device discovery, monitoring, remote administration and management and testing protocols. Designing and implementation of the system has to be carried out with frequent prototype testing in the lab environment. When final product is ready to be tested and evaluated, it will be tested on few different network scenarios and feedbacks of administrators of each scenario will be collected.

2. Dissertation Background

This project got a wide background since it covers three areas of networking. So the project can be sub divided in to network device discovery and mapping, remote connectivity and third party application support.

Initially one of the main functions of the system is creating network topology maps. Once we deploy the system it'll start discovering attached network devices. This part of the system got obvious advantages. Keeping track of management protocols like DNS and DHCP is one advantage. Also by using a method to register attached devices, intrusions can be detected easily when unregistered devices are attached. These ideas are being discussed in detail and some basic functions for network discovery are illustrated by Sloan, (2001). Centralized network map shows information clearly. This makes the identification of problems easier. This source presents key elements that needed to complete the network map creation part of the system. Also it discuss about network device discovery in detail.

SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) is a protocol which used for managing computer networks and collecting management data. It can be enabled on almost every type of network devices. SNMP can be used on core devices like routers, switches to user level devices like servers, workstations, printers. SNMP not only monitor networks it also can be used for basic management operations like port blocking and taking programmed actions automatically. Mauro and Schmidt (2001) describe how to use SNMP efficiently to monitor computer networks. These ideas and methods will be used for developing the main system. SNMP is not a new protocol but the functions of it, is essential for any monitor system.

Remote connectivity is very important in any network system. These remote connections must be reliable and well secured. SSH (The secure shell) is used to secure remote connections by using data encryption methods. SSH can be used over many application layer protocols. SSH is not 100% secured but it's very effective against network hackers. Using of SSH for remote connectivity is explained by Barret and Silverman (2001). SSH will provide connectivity to network devices through HTTP (Hyper text transfer protocol) and Telnet for configuring and collecting management information.

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There are many third party applications which can be integrated to broaden the features of the system. Traffic monitoring tools, Network security tools and Remote administration tools are some of it. Traffic monitoring tools are used to make computer networks more secure and reliable by monitoring traffic anomalies. Cottrell (2009) Shows the development of network monitoring tools and lists the available monitoring tools.

3. Aims And Objectives

The primary aim of this project is to develop a partially automated centralized network status monitoring system with automated network mapping and integrated network device configuration options.

The secondary aim of this project is to integrate support for 3rd party applications used for remote computer administration, detailed traffic monitoring and network security.

To achieve these aims following objectives have been set to be followed,

1. Detailed research in subject areas related to the project. These areas include Network mapping, link testing, remote connectivity, network device discovery and remote logging.

2. Develop and improve implementation skills necessary. Include improving of related programming skills.

3. Design preliminary structure of the complete system which includes every feature.

4. Design the core system framework (Network status monitor, network map creator and link failure alert system) and graphical interface layout.

5. Develop the main software module.

6. Design the other features of the system. Remote connectivity, Remote logging and 3rd party application support.

7. Develop and integrate the sub modules to the main system.

8. Prototype testing and bug fixing of the completed system.

9. Test the system in different network scenarios and collect feedback of administrators. Different types of network setups will be formed in the lab environment under the supervision of academic staff members and professionals in the field. Then the software module will be tested and evaluated.

10. Completing the ethics forms. Make sure there will be no violation of ethics during the project. Fully informed academics and industry professionals will be testing the project. All the information used will be under the fully authorization of publisher.

4. Intellectual Challenge

The main challenge of this project is selecting correct protocols and finding coding for those protocols to develop the system. There are many protocols that can be used for a single purpose. So the best protocols are hard to identify. Some protocols are copyrighted and cannot be used in the system. And finding codes for some protocols are impossible since they are not been published. Some of other challenges completing this project are,

  • There are many types of operating systems and many different types of venders in the market. Software should support as many as possible of these systems and equipment.
  • Excellent knowledge of computer programming and engineering is essential for designing and coding the software module. This knowledge must be gained while developing the system to complete the project successfully.
  • Limited types of equipment are available for testing in lab environment. So testing in general will be an issue. Compatibility with some equipment may be unpredictable.
  • Project planning has been done based on assumptions. Timescale can be changed and working according to the schedule can be hard.
  • At least two supervisors will be needed for this project since it involves computer networking and computer programming at the same time. So matching their schedules and project plan to get assistance when necessary will be difficult.
  • Since this is the first project I undertake, everything will be new and will have to learn quickly.

5. Personal Rational Of The Project

This project requires a great amount of knowledge in computer networking and programming. The knowledge I gained by following MSc. Computer Networks and Security will be used for completing this project. My Programming knowledge I gained as an undergraduate and Cisco networking knowledge will also be used.

This project not only will help me to improve my knowledge. It'll help me to improve my skills and gain new skills. Project management, working in research environment, following ethics, working in a time frame and literature review writing are some of those skills.

6. Research Program

Methodology

Gather information for developing the system. Classify all the information according to subject areas. Select the methods, facts and protocols using following set of rules and guidelines.

  • Should strongly relate to the subject areas
  • Shouldn't be old and out dated
  • Should be genuine. Not just thoughts or inaccurate information.
  • Shouldn't be copyright protected and illegal information
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Developing implementation skills necessary for the project. System designing and programming skills will be improved by,

  • Reading books and previous notes on system design and programming
  • Using video tutors
  • Getting help from academic staff members
  • Using internet to quickly solve problems while working

Testing of the system will be carried out in three parts. And in these three parts there will be series of tests to make sure the system is stable, functioning properly and bugs free.

First test series will be carried out on the completion of main software module. Main functions of the system will be tested on lab environment using only few no of equipments. Any anomalies and failures will be recorded and resolved before further advancing.

Second test series will be carried out after completion of the system. System integrity, using simultaneous functions, interoperability between sub modules and the main system, integration of third party tools and remote connectivity will be tested using the same setups used in first test. Areas which need improvements and errors in the system will be recorded. After all the identified errors are fixed and improvements are done, system will be tested again. Testing, fixing and improving will carry out until the system is error free and well optimized.

Final test series will be conducted using prearranged network scenarios in the lab environment. Finest version of the system will be used for testing. System will be tested and evaluated by selected academics and professionals

Evaluation And Conclusions

Functionality, Performance and importance of the system are expected to be tested and evaluated by academic staff members and industry professionals. Third party software integration will be demonstrated using two selected applications. Feedbacks will be recorded in final evaluation reports. Remarks and further improvements will also be also noted.

Conclusions will be made based on the final evaluation reports. Possible further improvements will also be added.

Schedule For The Proposed Tool

The proposed project will be started on 31st of May 2010 and expected to be finished by 27th of November 2010. The project work has been broken down to tasks as follows

7. Deliverables

After completing the project following tangible outputs / Products can be identified

  • MSc. Dissertation
  • Literature review which can be published
  • Best protocols for network monitoring
  • Requirements of successful network status monitor
  • Identified scenarios which the system can be implemented
  • Completed Network status monitor system
  • Evaluation reports
  • Designs of the system which can be used for future improvements

8. Resources

Following resources are required for completion of this project

Access to library sources of Information. Journals, conference papers, books and online library resources.

To gain the knowledge necessary following resources will be requires

  • Journals (CNIR (Computer networks and Internet Research), Computer world, Journal of Computer systems, networks and communications and etc)
  • Conference papers (IEEExplore conferences and etc)
  • Books ( Essential SNMP, The Secure Shell SSH, Network Management and etc)
  • Online resources
  • e-journals (IEEExplore, ACM (Association for computing machinery and etc))
  • e-books ( ACM Digital library, EBRARY e-books and etc)
  • Sites ( BCS (British computer society, University sites and etc)

Access to computer networking Labs and equipment for testing

University labs, networking equipment, computers and tools will be required for implementation and testing.

People (Human interaction)

Assistance of supervisors will be needed during all the stages of the project.

For testing stages participation of academic staff members and Invited networking industry professionals will be essential.

Software for programming and testing

Programming package like Java or Visual Basic will be used for coding.

System will be tested on Microsoft and Linux platforms. Therefore different operating systems will be needed.