Network Monitor

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Network Monitor // Interactive Artwork

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Post by early // Sep 1, 2008, 6:56pm

Total Posts: 46
So the new version of trueSpace comes out, at a price that means I can put a copy on a machine at work. On the network. On the network I have full admin access to. On a network where I already make extensive use of scripts stitch together Windows, Unix, and z/OS systems. Although I prefer Perl, VBScript has been handy to manage my Windows network domain. A little research suggests that WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation), available in Windows XP or later, would provide some useful functions.

The simplest cross network script function is to ping the target system. The VBScript to call the WMI Ping function was embedded in a VBScript Command object named 'Pinger'. Pinger take the target system as input, either the hostname or IP address. If you input the hostname, the IP address is returned as kind of a bonus. So the pinger object outputs the hostname argument, a flag indicating true for a successful ping, and the IP address if hostname lookup succeeded. It also outputs a color value (r,g,b) for each result (normally green/red). The object works fine in 2D space, so now I need to express it in 3D space.

A single pinger object is associated with a single unique hostname/IP address. Commonly, a single IP address will define a device on the network. That device can be visualized as a green (reachable) or red (unreachable) cube. Some network devices have more then one IP address, and each is assigned to a real or virtual network interface. Each interface will have it's own indicator cube. In fact, we can translate the r,g,b values into a diffuse color block and apply it to the light bulb in a modeled indicator lamp.

I'm going to expose the other information in 3D space as well. I'm going to just assign the text strings output by Pinger into the text primitive object; cheap 3D labeling. I will also add a flat cube painted with a bitmap, and a description string also plugged into a text primitive. As a twist, a little VBScript object will change the description string to 'no device' if the target is unreachable. I encapsulate the whole thing and I have an (single interface) host monitor object.

Attached is my host monitor object with the 'pinger' script. Use 'localhost', 'loopback', or to test. Replace the bitmap on the 'Default' panel, controls are on 'Main' panel. XP or later only.

Post by early // Sep 1, 2008, 7:47pm

Total Posts: 46
Host Monitor is fine for a device with a single IP address, but some, like my firewall or my mainframe, have multiple interfaces. A cut down version of Host Monitor, displaying only the indicator, IP address, and comment makes a good Interface monitor. One Host Monitor and three Interface Monitors can be encapsulated in a single four interface network firewall device.

Now I can represent my network by network device, each device having at least one interface (or it wouldn't be on the network, would it?) I can put my device monitor up against a modeled representation of that device. The model can be literal, like my model of the IBM z800, simple geometric cubes, or more fanciful, such as the cloud of bubbles representing the internet.

I want to get this up and running, so I'm not implementing every idea I have. I can imagine writing all sorts of generic and specific network scripts to get device information to visualize. For now, I'll stick with the ping test. All sorts of fancy interface ideas occur to me; dashboards and multiple windows; VPNs represented as stargates with wormholes reaching through the internet gateway... too much.

Suddenly I'm building a 3D network diagram and active monitor. I'm thinking about how to best visually represent information. Who is my audience? People not intimately familiar with my network, but familiar with networking in general. I need to communicate to them in a visual language that they recognize. I best not get too far from a 3D Visio diagram. More advanced ideas can come later. Half mock-up, half working, here's my network. A Windows domain at XYB in San Diego, the mainframe at the BHDS data center in New York, a Disaster Recovery hotsite in New Jersey on standby. Clients scattered throughout the country. Multiple networks, the public internet, site to site VPN tunnels, and a private frame relay network through Sprintnet. Not yet included: printers and user workstations at the San Diego location.

Post by early // Sep 1, 2008, 8:08pm

Total Posts: 46
Fixed cameras offer these views: the New York data center mainframe, the map view, and the San Diego network.

At the data center, the mainframe needs two more interface monitor objects, and the firewall hasn't been sync'ed to the 'real' network address yet. (loopback is used as a placeholder. xySecure is a SSL proxy appliance for client access to the mainframe over the internet (TN3270).

For the map view, the frame relay network is represented by the 'cable' object. The six cable ends in the center are colored by interface monitors, and a ping failure will also 'light' the appropriate cable. The yellow squares representing VPN endpoints are likewise linked to interface objects.

Post by early // Sep 1, 2008, 8:22pm

Total Posts: 46
Here are a couple of more views of the San Diego network. In the server group, virtual servers are supposed to be semi-transparent. The keyboard and tape reel are left-overs from 1985.

Fonts for the labels need to be re-done. Perhaps Highway Gothic would be readable? Labels are good here for static views, but for true interactivity, they should be hidden unless there is an error condition or specifically invoked. Textures and lighting still need to be done...

Post by b_scotty // Sep 2, 2008, 4:33am

Total Posts: 176
Now that is way cool! :)
Add some kind of gesture based interface, and you'd have a Minority Report style interface. :)

Post by trueBlue // Sep 11, 2008, 3:31pm

Total Posts: 1761
Very cool project early!

Post by RichLevy // Sep 11, 2008, 4:49pm

Total Posts: 1140
Wow, very cool!

If Roman sees this, he is going to be very happy.


Post by frootee // Sep 11, 2008, 5:27pm

Total Posts: 2667
yeah that is really cool early. I like it. is a privately held community resource website dedicated to Active Worlds.
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