DX Spectrum Review

It has a REST API and is customisable using standard features.

What is most valuable?

  • REST API: The single most undersold feature of CA Spectrum is the REST API!
  • Customisation: Very customisable under the hood and using standard features.
  • Reliable: It just works. I've been using Spectrum for more than five years and it just keeps getting better.

The REST API allowed us to automate a lot of the manual work required to add devices into Spectrum. This included:

  • Installing the product via ‘silent installer’ based on one config file (installer would look at hostname and find out what role the server was and installed only those components. It also saves a DB if it’s a primary, and then loads the DB if it’s a secondary failover).
  • Adding users from LDAP (you need to create the users in LDAP in spectrum, and then it uses LDAP after that).
  • The automated deployment scripts we have first locally check if the devices are reachable via ICMP, SNMP, TFTP, etc., and then, if successful, it will add it to Spectrum in a specific container location. This contains logic which allows us to allocate which server in the Spectrum domain the device is deployed on and also checks to see if it exists on any other landscapes and deletes the devices that it’s not meant to be on only if the device exists on the correct landscape.

Other automation is the automatic creation of Global Collections, and a custom reporting ‘engine’ that allows us to query data from within Spectrum (e.g., 'Show me all alarms for devices running iOS version x which were created in the last hour' or 'Show me all devices which are running iOS versions not starting with 15.’).

Another thing that REST is good for is querying attributes for a specific model type. E.g., the VNM models contain info such as number of traps received, number of ignored traps, etc. When using tools like RRDTool, you can graph these over time and see how your Spectrum environment is doing.

These are the main areas and I’m looking to do a similar job for CA Performance Management. Once this is done, there is a lot of config management (i.e., management of Cisco configs) I want to do as even configs are stored in Spectrum models via attributes.

The best thing about Spectrum is the way it has been designed 'under the hood’. The concept of models with relationships to other models and each model having attributes. This makes a lot of information available that can be obtained very fast, instead of having to try do everything via VNM shell or GUI.

I was using VNM shell for years and typically ran scripts on each host and had to manage each host and the scripts (which were mostly always the same but nonetheless still a pain to administer). Most information is obtainable via VNMShell but you have to ‘stitch’ the info from each landscape together. With the REST API, it’s one call and it checks all landscapes.

What I also like about the REST API is that you can have a separate host running all the scripts. This allows for a much cleaner Spectrum build and less complications when upgrading.

Spectrum is what I like to call a good CMDB product. Once you have discovered the devices, you have a good CMDB to use to populate other tools. You can create custom attributes via the Model Type Editor and use Spectrum as your ‘single pane of glass’, which contains all the info a NOC/support team needs (e.g., you can import device reference numbers, circuit refs, addresses, contact numbers, etc.), so all the info is in one place. This can all be populated via REST API at discovery time.

It took me some time to get to understand the REST API and enjoy scripting, so the initial time investment was needed - but now it’s paying off and saving me a lot of time.

Back when I started to tinker with it, there was not a lot of documentation. This has vastly improved over the years and the APIs are getting better in terms of documentation and updated features.

How has it helped my organization?

The REST API work has allowed us to fully automate our deployment process, user creation, exception reporting, and much more.

The device support is very comprehensive and vendor agnostic. Device certifications are added almost quarterly or more frequently. This allows us to use Spectrum to manage new devices.

CA Spectrum is a good for network management (CMDB). While not a CMDB in it's own right, it is a good tool to use as the source of data for what is being monitored. Once Spectrum has the devices discovered, you get a lot of additional information such as software versions, serial numbers, interface info, module info, etc.

We also feed all of our alarms to it. You can feed traps/alarms from all over the place into Spectrum for that 'single pane of glass' functionality.

What needs improvement?

CABI was a major issue for us, but the newly added Jaspersoft is a better-suited reporting toolset, so this has already been addressed.

The OneClick UI is a little dated, but still very functional. They are also addressing this with the new web client. It's not quite where it can be, but it shows promise and looks pretty good for their first attempt at it.

One thing I would like to see is that all the IM products look similar in terms of UI design/widgets, etc. We are an MSP and would like our customers to have a seamless experience and not be able to notice moving between the various Infrastructure Management products.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have used it since 1998, 17 years or so (since 5.0).

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

I have not encountered any deployment issues at all.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

There was an issue with the REST API and a memory leak, but this was addressed very quickly and communicated via the CA Communities.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I have not encountered any scalability issues. Since 64-bit capability was added in Spectrum 10.x, we can add a lot more devices. However, we only populate up to about 60%, as we do quite a bit on the servers.

How are customer service and technical support?

Customer Service:

Customer service is very good. CA Support do a good job with communication and are always keen to assist. The CA Product team also continuously ask questions and look at the ideas posted on CA Communities. I don't think I've seen anything similar anywhere else. In most other cases, communities are run by users with little or no involvement by the vendor. CA are also always looking to include us with testing/new announcements.

Technical Support:

I rate technical support very highly. Most of the tickets I've logged are API questions and these are answered fairly quickly, even though they are only P4's. I think I might have raised 2 or 3 Priority 1 cases in the 17 years I've been using it. It's a very robust product and has most certainly stood the test of time.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I've never had to switch from another product to CA Spectrum. Most places I have worked either already had Spectrum or I've recommended it/implemented it as a new tool.

How was the initial setup?

The installation has always been simple. When I initially started using it, it was on Windows or Solaris. More recently, I've always suggested Linux. The move to Linux also didn't pose any issues and I've since done installations using custom scripts using the unassisted install. It just works!

What about the implementation team?

Most implementations were done by myself but for some projects, we've used CA Professional Services and they are very professional. They usually have people with various skills (technical/management) and tap into their internal support structure very effectively (e.g., access to product managers/development team, etc.).

What was our ROI?

The automation we have in place saves us some head count and data is now more accurate. In some organisations I've worked before, we also used Spectrum as a sort of scaled-down ticket management system; that also saved time and the reporting we were able to generate was very good.

The other good thing about Spectrum is that it works out-of-the-box. You can run a discovery and once devices are added, you already begin to see value. The root-cause analysis is also one of the big pluses. I've used other tools from other vendors and I think CA Spectrum's root-cause analysis is the best one I've used across the most devices. The CA Spectrum team also keep adding more features and most of these don't come at any additional cost.

Additionally the API allows us to implement custom attributes so we can import data from a CMDB so NOC Operators, or other users can have all the information they need in one tool. Integration with other CA IM tools and Service Desk tools improves the workflows and saves a lot of time.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Work out exactly what you need and negotiate. CA are very flexible and are always happy to help. They are not very 'Big Brother' in terms of going over the license usage. They give you some play but expect you to be honest and report any additional licenses you use. E.g., if you go over 100 licenses, they don't mind that you go over but you need to let them know if you plan to continue using them. They don't necessarily want to do audits like other companies.

Renewals are also a good time to re-negotiate, especially if you plan to use more features or even other products in their portfolio.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I've used HP OpenView, Netcool, EMC Smarts and some others, and whilst specific products might have some 'better' or more-specific features that CA Spectrum might not have, CA Spectrum seemed to be the most vendor-agnostic solution and one that was pretty much ready to go, from install. It also seemed to provide a well-rounded set of features that didn't necessarily cover everything the others did but had essential capabilities and more advanced features too.

What other advice do I have?

The CA Infrastructure tools on offer from CA work well with each other and are being more and more closely integrated every release. They use the Agile development methodology, so updates are frequent enough to keep up to date with new trends in technology. If you are not inclined to update too often, it is OK, as they do have a good support period. (I think it's 2-3 years or more in general, so you don't have to upgrade every time a new version is released.)

Invest in time and resources to utilise the REST APIs for their products; it will save a lot of time if you are an MSP or provider of any kind. Also, utilise your CA representative; they have a lot of experience with different industries (and technologies) and are valuable, fair and friendly.

Which version of this solution are you currently using?

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: My company is a MSP and we have chosen CA as a strategic partner due to the range of products and their close integration (CA Partner).
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author avatarNagesh Jaiswal (CA Technologies)

Thanks for valuable feedback.