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Lets get it started...

  • From: (Joachim Schmitz)
  • Date: Fri, 4 Nov 94 10:17:37 +0100
  • Cc:

 Dear members of the new mailing list tts-people,

 on the 19th RIPE meeting Stefan Biesbroeck initiated a BOF on Trouble Ticket
 Systems. I took part in this meeting and we agreed that I would send the
 short survey of TTS we did at the DFN-NOC to the list once it was set up.
 Well, it seems that this is the first mail really dealing with TTS to be
 sent to the list. Maybe it is a starter for some discussion on this topic.

 Let me first give a few words on our situation:

 We at DFN-NOC did some small evaluation of several Trouble Ticket Systems.
 I append an english translation of it below the signature. However, you
 should note that it is now close to one year old and there have been
 developments and improvements in the meantime. So be careful and check
 specific data given.

 In the meantime we have some more experience and information to share:
 * At the DFN-NOC we have an official test phase of the Trouble Ticket System
   "Gnats" running since July 1994. This test phase should reveal errors
   and troubles ;-) in using this specific Trouble Ticket System. We will
   close the test phase at the end of this year and proceed to get it into
   production phase in 1995. We have installed version 3.2 of "Gnats" which
   is available since several months. It has some major improvements compared
   to earlier versions (even though some small bugs were still left over;
   however, these were easily fixed - "Gnats" is running perfectly well
   at our site). The only drawback is that up to now only one fixed form
   exists which must be filled in by the submitter of the ticket. There is
   no way to adapt the form of the ticket. Yet, this form is sufficiently
   general in its layout and therefore is suitable for the purposes of the
   DFN-NOC. We also made some small adjustments to facilitate easier use
   by our customers (e.g. translating it into German, building installation
   scripts for the various submission ways etc).
 * The main reasons why DFN-NOC decided to use "Gnats" are
   - no costs arise for submitters ("Gnats" is available in the public
   - "Gnats" runs on any UNIX-like system
   - Trouble Tickets may be submitted in various ways
       o editor and mail
       o text tool "send-pr" of "Gnats"
       o X11 tool "tksendpr"
       o (we are now thinking of setting up a WWW interface, too)
   - all communication is done via electronic mail which is the standard
     communication tool in networking (submitting and querying of Trouble
     Tickets, notifications all done in mail)
   - the tickets themselves are easily accessible with standard UNIX tools
     besides the "Gnats" interface. Therefore no additional database
     management is needed (yet, "Gnats" offers a SQL interface). We very
     easily installed a "finger"-interface (try: finger trouble@localhost
     or finger on single trouble tickets, e.g. finger 34@localhost. However,
     description is in German).
   There are also three boundary conditions which should be mentioned:
   - submitters are network operators of DFN customers; there is no direct
     communication with the end users
   - the staff of DFN-NOC is limited and therefore it should not be occupied
     by continuously managing the Trouble Ticket System or any database system
   - DFN-NOC did not want to have a computer running where people must login
     to submit their tickets into a database (security considerations)
   In the end we arrived at "Gnats". For other institutions some different
   Trouble Ticket System may be more advantageous because of varying ways
   of communications, other customers, other boundary conditions... . What
   DFN-NOC learned from the evaluation is that an overwhelming graphical
   surface and high complexity is not always useful - the functionality
   counts according to your needs.
 * If you are looking for further information, here are two additional sources:
   - Computerworld, June 1992 (phone USA-508-879-0700): It is a magazine
     and in this issue a survey of 34 Trouble Ticket Systems is given
   - Moffit, M.L. and Rose, W.: Automating Your Software Support,
     SSPA, Software Support Professionals Association, 16981 Via Tazonsuite,
     San Diego 92127, CA (phone USA-619-674-4864). This is a handbook and
     it displays more than 100 Trouble Ticket Systems. It is not regularly
     available in book stores but must be bought at SSPA (costs are 145 US $
     plus package plus posting)

 That's about all the information I have at the moment. Please feel free to
 comment on it (comments on the information comprised in our somewhat dated
 evaluation below are also welcome). I hope this information is of any use
 to you.

 (and please: no flames on certain TTS - we chose according to our needs,
 your needs and ideas may be completely different!)

 One final remark: there are lots and lots of TTS - but no exchange format
 (besides RIPE-063 as ASCII text file) as far as I know. This should be a
 major item in our discussion in TTSs!

 Best regards


   For any problem reports regarding DFN-IP, please send your e-mail to
                      >>>>>>   noc@localhost   <<<<<<
      If you have any doubt about the proper delivery of your e-mail
        please contact the DFN-NOC by other means (telephone, FAX)

DFN Network Operation Center         Rechenzentrum der Universitaet Stuttgart
FAX             +711 678 7626  (business hours)                Allmandring 30
Bettina Kauth   +711 685 5810  kauth@localhost   D-70550 Stuttgart
Joachim Schmitz +711 685 5576  schmitz@localhost     FRG (Germany)

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 ------ Evaluation of some Trouble Ticket Systems by DFN-NOC ------
 ------ at the Computer Center, University of Stuttgart, FRG ------
 ------ November 1993                                        ------

 Trouble Ticket Systems

 A basic catalog of things needed in Trouble Ticket Systems for Network
 Operation Centers has been given in RFC 1297. DFN-NOC took this RFC as a
 measure to achieve some evaluation on Trouble Ticket Systems. The effort
 of evaluation can not be complete and some of the conclusions may be

 * CONCERT Trouble Ticket System: available with anonymous ftp from the site,* (several
   files). This system uses the Postgres database which is also available
   in the public domain. A big warning comes with the system saying that
   the Postgres database does not comply with certain security standards.
   It does not say that Postgres is a bad database - it works well.
   CONCERT offers a system to improve security but still warns. Besides
   managing the Trouble Ticket System also the database must be maintained.
   From other sources DFN-NOC heard that the searching algorithm is badly 
   implemented in the database.

 * JvNC's NETLOG Trouble Ticket System: available with anonymous ftp from the
   site* (several
   files). This system does not meet RFC 1297 (some missing features like
   escalation schemes). DFN-NOC does not know whether work on this system
   has been postponed.

 * NEARnet Trouble Ticket System: available with anonymous ftp from the site - DFN-NOC did
   not test this system because it is based on the Informix database which
   must be bought from some other source and was not available at the DFN-NOC

 * REQUEST Trouble Ticket System: available with anonymous ftp from the site (or others).
   This system is used (with some adaptions) by EUnet, Germany. It is based
   upon a perl script named "request" developed by the University of Cali-
   fornia. To the knowledge of DFN-NOC this system does not meet RFC 1297.
   More comments should be available from EUnet, Germany.

 * SOFTLAB Trouble Ticket System: A newly created system by the SOFTLAB
   company at Munich, Germany (version 1.0, May 1993). At the time when the
   evaluation was done, no test version was available. DFN-NOC was able to
   get a handbook from DANTE (which is supposed to be using this system?)
   and concludes that it meets RFC 1297 at least. No further information

 * Help Desk Management System (HDMS): developed by the Delmarva Power &
   Light Company Newark (USA), available via anonymous ftp from the site - this system needs
   the Unify 2000 database which must be bought from some other source and
   was not available at the DFN-NOC site. But even for sites where the
   database system is available it seems to be questionable whether HDMS
   is suitable as a Trouble Ticket System for computer network operating.
   It is very specifically designed for a Power Company dealing in
   electricity and not in computer network operating.

 * SUN Call Tracker (SUN): This system can be bought from SUN Corp. At least
   parts of it are based upon the ARS of Remedy (see below). DFN-NOC did not
   include it in the evaluation because of its similarity to the ARS. There
   might be deviations from ARS.

 * ARS (Action Request System): ARS can be bought from Remedy Corporation,
   1965 Landings Drive, Mountain View, California 94043, USA. Test versions
   are available for various operating systems. The ARS is under constant
   development and support by Remedy. DFN-NOC has installed a test version.
   ARS is built upon a SQL database (there are interfaces included for
   several commercially available database systems) and defines three
   groups of persons dealing with tickets:
   - administrator and dispatcher
   - support staff
   - user (submitter)
   Each of these groups has its own working and notification tool within ARS.
   The type and form of the tickets is designed by the ARS administrator and
   dispatcher to his liking including filters defining notification, priority
   and escalation schemes among other things. The access to Trouble Tickets
   is granted according to permissions set by the administrator/dispatcher.
   There are interfaces to some Network Management Systems (like SUN netmanager
   or HP) to automatically generate Trouble Tickets depending on the network
   status. Moreover a standardized API for further programming is available.
   DFN-NOC thinks that ARS is a very far developed system with great potential
   and powerful surface. Drawbacks are
   - only a very poor interface exists to submit tickets by electronic mail.
     Trouble Tickets can not be queried or changed by electronic mail. This
     makes sense because Remedy wants to sell its clients for ARS
   - to submit Trouble Tickets it is necessary to login on the computer where
     the database is kept. A client solution is available but the client
     needs access to the harddisk where the database is located
   - the price is quite high (around 10000 US $ for the base version - however,
     various conditions available) and each new client leads to higher costs
   The ARS is used by the ANS-NOC in their regular work (it is supposed that
   MCI uses it, too). Trouble Tickets are only opened or dealt with by the
   ANS-NOC itself, the customers do not have access. One of the reasons given
   for that is the sensitivity of the data, another reason is the license
   pricing scheme by Remedy which increases dramatically the more people have
   access to the ARS system. From what DFN-NOC has heard, ARS is therefore
   used for internal TT handling within one organisation, only.

 * Gnats (also known as PRMS = Problem Report Management System): This GNU
   tool is available from many GNU sites - the newest version can be retrieved
   via anonymous ftp from
   It was developed by Cygnus Support, 1937 Landings Dr., Mountain View, CA,
   94043 (USA) and is continuously developed and maintained by this company.
   Gnats uses one simple file for each Trouble Ticket (a SQL interface is
   available). For the user the access to the data in the files looks the same
   as if it was done in a database but no database system is needed. All
   access is done by electronic mail (submitting, adding new information,
   querying, notifications), only changes by the support staff handling the
   tickets must be done interactively on the computer where the tickets are
   kept. Groups of persons dealing with tickets are defined like in the ARS.
   Tools for all functions are available including working tools, notification
   and priority/escalation schemes. DFN-NOC thinks that Gnats is a very good
   system which has been developed quite far and has great potential.
   Drawbacks are:
   - Gnats was developed for maintaining software (especially GNU software)
     and is not specially designed for computer networking. Yet, its design
     allows a far more wider usage
   - Gnats only offers one single form to be filled in as a Trouble Ticket.
     While this reduces flexibility to a minimum, the form is set up in a
     very general way and can be used in other surroundings as well
   - Gnats is not built upon a database system (this may also be an advantage)
   - installation is more difficult than with the ARS
   Advantages are
   - no costs arise for submitters ("Gnats" is available in the public
     domain as a GNU tool). Service contracts are available with Cygnus
     Support if desired (these cost money, of course)
   - "Gnats" runs on any UNIX-like system
   - Trouble Tickets may be submitted in various ways
       o editor and mail
       o text tool "send-pr" of "Gnats"
       o X11 tool "tksendpr"
   - all communication is done via electronic mail which is the standard
     communication tool in networking
   - the tickets themselves are easily accessible with standard UNIX tools
     besides the "Gnats" interface. Therefore no additional database
     management is needed (yet, "Gnats" offers a SQL interface).
   DFN-NOC has decided to use it as Trouble Ticket System not only internally
   but also giving DFN customers access to it.

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