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Developing Effective Network Diagnostics

By Andrea Caumont
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 25, 2004; Page E05

Network engineers spend many of their working hours just keeping their networks up and running. Router Solutions, a three-person company in McLean, wants to help companies reduce the time their tech departments devote to such routine fixes. The company said it has developed a system-operation-management platform that monitors what's happening across an entire network, detecting issues when they arise and fixing them with little or no intervention from network engineers.

"Fixing a network is no different from fixing a car," said Mike Borek, founder, president and chief executive. "You're relying on a mechanic to accurately diagnose what the issue is and then be able to understand what the right corrective action is."


Router Solutions' program finds and fixes recurring network problems, chief executive Mike Borek says. (Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)

In Profile

Name: Router Solutions, Inc.

Location: McLean

Big idea: Its network-support operations program provides centralized management, automation and self-repairing capabilities for networks.

Founded: March 2001

Web site: www.routersolutions.com

Who's in charge: The three co-founders are Mike Borek, president and chief executive; Mitch Lerman, vice president of product strategy; and John Lusher II, vice president of engineering.

Funding: Router Solutions seeks additional venture funding. It has received venture capital investments from Monumental Venture Partners and Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology. The three co-founders funded operations until September 2003.

Employees: Three, full time.

Big-name clients: Borek declined to name his company's clients, though he said "we're working with industry leaders." He said his company targets the telecommunications industry, managed service providers and large enterprises in the government, financial, health care and insurance sectors.

Network systems have a tendency to degrade over time, and they require constant troubleshooting. Borek said his firm's program learns from the actions network engineers take to resolve a problem, so the next time similar symptoms arise the program can respond with the appropriate corrective action without instructions from an engineer.

"Accuracy increases over time," Borek said. "And each time the same problem arises the program is able to learn from the day-to-day support activities that occur on a network, and from that be able to teach itself how to support itself going forward."

The program helps to reduce the number of mundane repairs that account for so much of a network engineer's workload. "The engineers can spend more time making the network perform better, expanding the capacity of the network, not just keeping it running," Borek said.

He likened interacting with networks today to working with command prompts in the days of Microsoft DOS. "We have provided a replacement for command-line interface, similar to what Microsoft did. We made Windows for interacting with networks."

A network is a collection of hardware made by different manufacturers, each with its own operating system or language. Network engineers have to be conversant in those languages and translate for the different systems to help them work together. "A user wants to do something, and our software figures out how they can do it," Borek said, no matter which device is concerned or who makes it.

Borek said his program embodies the evolution of Simple Network Management Protocol, which allows users to ask network devices simple questions to determine how long a device is operating and how it is performing, but it does not allow for detailed "conversations" with a device.

Borek likened SNMP to "knowing a few key phrases of a foreign language." He said the program creates a common language platform by abstracting the syntax differences in different operating systems. It "acts as the universal translator so you can have deep, meaningful conversations in the device's native language."


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