US 5796951 System for displaying information relating to a computer network including association devices with tasks performable on those devices

ABSTRACT – A computer-implemented method of managing a computer network including a plurality of devices is provided, wherein a plurality of network management tasks are performable upon the devices. Data is gathered about a present configuration of the network, including the types of devices in the network, the quantity of each type of device present in the network, the relationships between the devices, and the tasks performable upon each of the devices. The data is then stored in a database representing a network map. A display is generated corresponding to the network map using the data in the database. The display shows an association of the devices with the tasks performable on the devices using bitmap representations of the devices and tasks. The display may include hierarchical, schematic, or geographical representations of the devices on the network. The devices are organized into a plurality of groups. In response to a user input selecting a device or group, the tasks performable by that device or group are identified on the display. A user may initiate any one of the displayed tasks by applying a user input selecting that task.


The present invention pertains to the field of computer networking. More particularly, the present invention relates to tools for providing management services for a computer network.


The rapidly increasing use of personal computers has created a growing interest worldwide in computer networking, a prime example of which is the pervasive use of “the Internet”. Computer networking on a smaller scale, such as in the form of Local Area Networks (LANs), has also expanded into countless different areas of business and technology. As users place more reliance upon computer networks, however, they also demand more sophisticated capabilities for managing these networks. Various different software packages exist for providing users with such capabilities.

Existing software products for network management have several disadvantages, however. For example, such products tend to be largely “tool-based”. That is, although the software provides the user (e.g., a network administrator) with a set of tools for performing network functions, such as troubleshooting, it is often up to the user to determine which tool is best for performing a particular task and to determine on which devices in the network a task should be performed. Further, it is often difficult for a network administrator or user to become proficient enough with the available management tools to be able to use those tools to their full potential. These tools also tend to require that the user have extensive knowledge about the layout of the network, and that the user provide this information to the management tool. Moreover, existing network management tools generally provide the user with only one or two predetermined formats for examining the layout of the network.

Hence, what is needed is a set of network management services which are designed from a more flexible, device-oriented perspective. Specifically, what is needed is a network management tool which provides the user with information on the layout of the network, tasks that can be performed, and the devices on which each particular task can be performed. What is further needed is a tool which provides the user with customizable ways of viewing the layout of the network.


A computer-implemented method of providing information on a computer network is provided. The network includes a number of devices. A number of tasks are provided, such that each task can be performed upon at least one of the devices. In the method, a display is generated having a first area corresponding to the devices and a second area corresponding to the tasks. A representation of a subset of the plurality of devices is displayed in the first area. A user input selecting the representation is accepted, and, in response to the user input, information indicating which of the tasks can be performed upon each device of the subset is displayed in the second area.

Other features of the present invention will be apparent from the accompanying drawings and from the detailed description which follows.


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