Characteristics of Problems in Large Computer Network

There are several reasons for the growth in networks resulting in many problems for interconnected networks. First, several problems originate from the difficulties faced in the management of large networks. Many computers are attached to geographically separated networks. In this case, it is almost impossible to completely manage entire networks and hosts. Second, people in diverse communities, where people may not fully understand computers and internetworks, may begin to use computer networks. Their lack of experience on networking and careless mistakes may at times lead to serious problems and prevents the expansion of networks in the other communities. The final reason is the presence of a heterogeneous environment, that is, one in which various kinds of computers made by different manufacturers are attached to the same network and start to communicate. This type of environment breeds a host of problems.

Human network experts and managers try to resolve these problems, but because networks are large, complex, and both geographically and functionally distributed, a lot of time may be required to resolve the problems. Even if a manager finds the symptom of a problem, the cause may be located in another, remote network, or the manager may not be able to obtain enough information for troubleshooting. Moreover, the manager must often investigate a huge amount of flowing packet data and must often cooperate with other network managers to isolate the real cause of the problem. To do this, however, may take a long time. In internetworks, some problems sometimes show no apparent symptoms (these types of problems are called potential problems. Potential problems will probably cause serious effects when the network becomes larger or when more hosts are attached to it. Furthermore, a few problems may spread to other network segments through IP routers or gateways.

There are a number of SNMP/MIB-based network management systems. These are useful to understand the network state for expert network managers. However, this type of systems do not show when a problem occurred, and what is the problem. We also take into account that some companies do not have the experts where such a SNMP-based management system do not work as intended.

These discussions confirm the need for a knowledge-based system capable of diagnosing the problems in internetworks.

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Updated on July 9th, 1998.