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Desktop and application virtualization offer a more efficient approach to PC management, offering reduced administrative, hardware and energy costs, along with stronger security. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) can also improve productivity, by enabling users to access distributed applications remotely from any client device.

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The expanding virtual workforce, growing popularity of mobile devices, and ongoing IT belt-tightening have combined to make VDI one of the most critical IT services for organizations of all sizes. But, in order to realize the benefits of virtual desktops, you must be able to ensure the performance of the access network that connects remote clients to the virtual infrastructure. Most applications that are being virtualized were not designed for remote access in the first place. So when network performance   falters below acceptable thresholds, applications become sluggish, freeze and finally disconnect – leaving users aggravated and unproductive.

Unfortunately, many VDI deployments are hampered by frustrating and hard-to-identify network performance problems. SNMP-based network management tools can only provide information on the devices that a company manages directly, rendering them unhelpful with troubleshooting network performance issues along the VDI service path. Traditional “netflow analysis” solutions are costly, difficult to deploy and manage, and consume massive amounts of bandwidth, making them unsuitable for remote sites.

What is required for managing network performance for VDI deployments is the ability to assess, continuously monitor and remotely  troubleshoot network performance from a virtual or physical system to any other target – across LANs (wired or wireless…), WANs and even public networks. Application engineers must be able to:

  1. Pre-Assess the customer network to understand if the current network is ready (or not) for VDI deployment in order to set expectations and resolve any issues proactively.  The assessment needs to understand the specific operational requirements of the selected VDI vendor.
  1. While assessments are a key first step, they are only good for a given point in time and networks are very dynamic in nature.  Therefore to assure success, continuous monitoring of key network performance indicators (KPIs) that are critical to the successful delivery of VDI services is essential. These include total, consumed and available capacity, network utilization, latency, packet loss and jitter.   It’s vital that the monitoring be able to understand the network in totality (i.e., in the same way the VDI infrastructure will leverage the network…) and not affect production VDI network traffic.
  2. Compare real-time network performance with the KPI values that virtual desktop services need to function properly, in order to ensure overall Quality of Service.  When differences do appear, alert key operations staff to any SLA violations and enable intelligent diagnostics to understand the where and the why in order to reduce meantime to repair. AppNeta has the experience and expertise to know the exact performance thresholds needed for all major vendors to assure success with the VDI performance.

How can network engineers gain a real-time view into network performance between remote users and virtualized servers – and respond more quickly to their frustrated end users? AppNeta’s PathView Cloud technology offers instant value and immediate insight to identify whether the cause of poor performance resides along the network or within the VDI. By enabling the proactive monitoring of access networks against KPIs, PathView Cloud lets you troubleshoot and pinpoint the performance problems of virtualized applications at remote sites so you can ensure QoS for users.

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Why are more and more organizations building their own clouds, often in addition to leveraging the cost and scalability advantages of private cloud services? For many heavily regulated businesses, such as financial services and healthcare firms, demands for the highest levels of security for sensitive data have made private cloud alternatives more appealing. Private clouds also optimize the ability to dynamically allocate IT resources across business units, and can help ensure that capacity demands at peak times don’t overwhelm the resources an organization can access via public clouds.

For any organization that seeks to move business-critical services onto private cloud infrastructure, network performance becomes a “gating factor” that can make or break the success of private cloud deployments. Why? Because every cloud-based application is by definition a remote, network-dependent application – even if the cloud it runs on is in your data center. Likewise, all users of cloud-based applications are by definition remote users, because they are remote from where the services are being delivered.

To get the most from your cloud computing investments, you must be able to predictably and efficiently manage network performance. It is therefore imperative that today’s organizations continuously monitor and proactively troubleshoot their distributed and cloud-based networks. You need to rapidly pinpoint the exact location and cause of performance degradation, even within your virtualized cloud infrastructure, to ensure service quality for cloud-based applications like Unified Communications, virtual desktops and IP storage.

The challenges associated with managing the performance of cloud-based networks and other IP-based networks have traditionally been cost and complexity. SNMP-based tools are great for monitoring the health of network devices like routers and switches, but they are not designed to tell you how well the network is doing at delivering applications. Traditional netflow analysis tools are dependent on having the right network hardware in place and are labor-intensive to deploy and manage.

AppNeta has revolutionized network performance management for businesses of all sizes with its award-winning PathView Cloud solution. This cost-effective, zero administration, cloud-based service offers active bandwidth monitoring and end-to-end QoS verification, providing comprehensive performance insight to any IP address over any LAN, WAN, VPN or the Internet. 

Now AppNeta’s PathView Private Cloud offers all the business benefits and instant time-to-value of its hosted solution in a secure, private deployment model. PathView Private Cloud can be implemented in minutes, and no data ever leaves the customer’s network. PathView Private Cloud is delivered via a purpose-built 1U rack mount server appliance, which is included with the subscription.

Check out this 2-minute video to learn more, or sign up for a free trial of PathView Cloud!

Many organizations underestimate the operational and business risk associated with deploying performance sensitive applications like VoIP, video conferencing, IP storage or virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to remote locations. Other projects such as transitioning to a multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network or integrating company networks due to a merger or acquisition can present significant performance problems for business critical services

Prior to making major infrastructure changes or rolling out new IP-based applications, it is critical to thoroughly test and assess your network’s readiness. This is especially true if your IT team was not involved in building out the network, and thus may not comprehensively understand the key performance metrics your business services depend on

A complete baseline assessment is the only way to gauge the true scope of the project and accurately assess needs and costs. Analysts warn that a majority of companies will underestimate the impact of upgrades to their data networks when adding VoIP and other IP-based service.

Surveying a representative sample of network activity and making assumptions based on these results can be a costly mistake. For example, simply looking at Mean Opinion Scores (MoS), latency and loss measurements does not give you sufficient baseline information to ensure an error-free deployment and adequate post-deployment service quality – particularly because these tests do not assess variance in network traffic over time. Thus they can’t tell you everything you need to know about network capacity. Among the resulting problems can be increased costs of dealing with network problems, not to mention their business and productivity impact

An effective network assessment will save time and money by providing a holistic view of the network’s ability to handle voice and data traffic, validate SLAs, identify network problems, and accurately measure capacity. A successful network assessment requires a five-step approach:

  1. Pre-deployment assessment (Will it work?)
  2. Post-deployment assessment (Does it work?)
  3. Ongoing monitoring (How to keep it working)
  4. Troubleshooting (Unforeseen problems)
  5. Accurate reporting at each of the above stage

Once you have performed an initial network performance assessment, it is best practice to assess performance and throughput of LAN and WAN network circuits continuously, end-to-end, at the level of detail of the pre-deployment assessments. These assessments need to include dozens of targets at various locations, which are representative of the entire deployment. Further, assessment of targets should take place in each direction relative to key network locations

How can you seamlessly perform and review complex and diverse, ongoing network assessments? One cost-effective solution is to leverage the network assessment capabilities of AppNeta’s PathView Cloud technology.Pathview Cloud’s network assessment lets you acquire metrics on performance characteristics like jitter, latency and available bandwidth from any location to any IP-addressable target worldwide. There’s no faster, easier way to comprehensively and accurately measure the readiness and reliability of your network prior to deploying business-critical applications – or at any point in time thereafter. Learn more about conducting network assessments and continuous monitoring, and request your own free trial here.

Wireshark and PathView Cloud: An Unbeatable Combination for Network Troubleshooting

wiresharkOpen source award winner Wireshark is probably the most widely deployed network protocol analyzer/packet sniffer out there. It lets you capture and interactively browse network traffic, and shows the packets to you in a human-readable form. Wireshark is the tool that first made the world of network and application troubleshooting accessible to IT staff.

Thanks to the contributions of networking experts worldwide, Wireshark has grown in sophistication and power. Its analysis capabilities now include the areas that pose the greatest challenges for today’s network administrators, such as VoIP and Wi-Fi troubleshooting.

According to InfoWorld, “This tool is one that should always be with you.” And eWeek named it one of the most important open-source apps of all time.

Yesterday kicked off SHARKFEST 2011, the Wireshark developer and user conference, happening from June 13-16 at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. AppNeta is thrilled to be joining Wireshark users from far and wide to share knowledge about optimizing network infrastructure and managing performance of network-dependent applications.

Wireshark users get seamlessly integrated packet capture analysis with AppNeta’s PathView Cloud; you can easily analyze the detailed forensic information from packet captures from anywhere, anytime, through our simple, secure and highly affordable cloud-based service. And you can define the performance thresholds that trigger a capture — No sorting through gigabytes of traffic unrelated to your performance problem!  With the FlowView Plus (including remote site packet capture!) module, PathView Cloud lets you securely access captures through the cloud with automatic packet captures in response to network performance problems – at any remote location.

PathView Cloud is designed specifically with a Wireshark compatible filter syntax and compressed file format – so there’s no need to learn a new interface for packet

PathView Cloud and the FlowView Plus module provide the most efficient and cost-effective method available for correlating real-time network performance data and packet capture data. Seamless integration with Wireshark adds even more power and value.

Come visit AppNeta at Sharkfest this week!

Sound familiar? I know this is a question many of you ask yourself regularly, if not daily.

There aren’t too many people that would debate the value provided by understanding flow data: the ability to get deep and near real-time insight into the applications and users that are consuming resources on your network.  Flow analysis has been built into a wide array of network analysis tools so you have more options than ever before to understand your network usage. Additionally, flow tools no longer slow down the performance of routers and firewalls because high end and mid-range hardware is powerful enough to avoid the impact on these devices.

But, until now, getting Flow visibility to and from remote sites has been too expensive and cumbersome. Despite the evident value of understanding flow data, I see some major needs in getting this insight into remote offices in a way that is:

  • Easy – Admins don’t want to manage and maintain another server or software sensors at the remote site.
  • Inexpensive – it needs to be affordable enough to rollout to each office without breaking the bank.
  • Universally available – it needs to work at each office, regardless of which network gear is installed there.

There are solutions that may hit one or two of these, but until now all three have been elusive.  Today, Apparent Networks is officially integrating FlowView into the PathView Cloud service and brings all three benefits to network managers in a simple, cloud based package.

PathView Cloud has been built from the ground up to give you real time performance visibility to and from remote offices. With a cloud-based service enabled by zero-administration microAppliances, remote site organizations are finally able to get true end-to-end performance visibility. BUT, the first thing we hear out of peoples’ mouths is:

With PathView Cloud and the new FlowView module, organizations have an inexpensive option that not only gives them real time performance to and from all remote offices, it can drill down from those reports and view the users and applications in use at those remote offices.

FlowView is unique from most Flow Analysis systems in that it does not take flow feeds from existing network devices. Instead it creates its own flow records. A Gigabit Ethernet switch-tap is included free with the service which runs at line speed and sends a copy of all network traffic to the PathView Cloud microAppliance. We then analyze that traffic and generate Flow records that are securely sent to the cloud service for reporting, and can also be streamed to a local flow analysis tool for companies that have already invested in a tool.

FlowView was designed to be self sufficient, and does not require a span, tap port, or network devices capable of generating Flow records at the remote offices. At a total price of $499 (including one year of service, all hardware, training and customer support) FlowView is dramatically more cost effective than other flow-only solutions on the market and, quite simply, it can’t get any easier to use. Within the web user interface a single switch turns on flow analysis and the collection, streaming to the cloud through a secure, compressed SSL tunnel and in-line reporting with real time performance analytics is all done automatically.

Having issues with the performance from to or from remote offices? Well, you now have a tailor-made solution to finally answer “exactly what is going on at that remote office” in an easy, cost effective and universal package.

Sign up for a free demo, or learn more about FlowView here!

I speak with IT Outsourcers and Managed Service Providers every day, and I am always amazed at how busy they are, but I’m realizing that I shouldn’t be. According to AMR Research, 80% of companies are increasing or maintaining their current level of IT outsourcing in the current year. IT Outsourcing doesn’t just mean organizations shipping their coding jobs to India; it is having an outside firm set-up their hosted Exchange server, VoIP system and any other critical business application for them. Additionally,  IT staff that were let go during the economic downturn are not getting re-hired, rather  IT outsourcers are filling these roles and delivering hosted and cloud based services.

Despite a lot of enthusiasm about PathView Cloud’s capabilities, I’ve noticed there are common delays in testing and deploying PathView Cloud — simply because they are too busy. Not only are many of them running their own business, they are testing, deploying and managing the IT resources for a numerous end users concurrently, and finding time to do anything else is a challenge.

In order to make IT Outsourcers job a bit easier, and certainly more efficient, we recently added the Enterprise Integration capability to the PathView Cloud service. Realizing that our service is “only as valuable as it is visible” led us to address this customer need.

Enterprise Integration allows us to synchronize PathView Cloud alerts to any SNMP tool and is the cornerstone for recently announced N-Able integration.  By providing our MIB, the enterprise integration opens PathView’s alert data to any application that can poll this data.

Remote Monitoring and Management systems such as N-Able provide a centralized view of the health and status of server and network hardware as well as a number of critical applications. These systems are designed from the ground up to give MSPs a view across all of their customer locations so they can identify and investigate issues occurring at remote offices. PathView Cloud’s real time insight into remote location performance fills a gap in the information available to the IT Outsourcer. Enabling the complete picture from the console of one tool eliminates the necessity to review another tool with another workflow, greatly increasing the efficiency of the engineer and the ease of deploying an additional solution.

With the integration, all alert information from PathView Cloud is now available in the RMM central pane of glass, with a direct link back into the web based user interface of PathView Cloud for deeper investigation.

Use N-able or looking for an RMM Tool?  Read more about the integration here, or Contact us at!

I spend a good amount of time talking to people about computer networks, their company’s networks, their customers’ networks, telco providers, etc, and the most common question that comes up is “What is using up all my network capacity.” For such a fundamental question this is surprising difficult to answer for the vast majority of companies.

Any network engineer worth his Cisco Certifications will be well aware that there are two primary methods of identifying who exactly is using all that capacity: Packet Capture and Flow Analysis. Each of these technologies has tradeoffs that can limit their appeal. Flow Analysis, developed by Cisco as a proprietary format under the name NetFlow is in the process of becoming an IEFT standard with the name IPFIX, and is specifically designed to answer the key questions about capacity usage, that is the who, what, when, where and why (no one ever really knows why) of your network. While information helps to answer the original question, there are two main challenges:

  • A Flow enabled device in conjunction with a flow analysis tool is required to generate this information and analyze the data. This infrastructure requirement prevents the majority of small companies and Service Providers from knowing what is impacting performance of service on customer networks.
  • Although Flow is a great summary of activity, it lacks the details necessary to dig deeper and find exactly what is going on in the network do so.

Packet Capture generates more infrastructure load than Flow Analysis, but completely covers the depth of information needed to answer the hairiest of network questions. Free tools like WireShark are clearly the go-to analysis tool for most of the network engineers that I know. However, the challenge with Packet Capture is that the tools utilized are expert tools designed for expert users. I have spoken with dozens of smart individuals who are responsible for critical applications running over the network such as VoIP,  SharePoint and various database systems that are intimidated by utilizing WireShark.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a tool that marries the simplicity of Flow Analysis with the depth and complexity Packet Capture, providing a clear view of activity that is easy for non-network engineers to understand while still maintaining the ability for experts to get the granular details when needed. This is a tall order, but the latest enhancements to FlowView Plus combine both of these requirements into a single, n easy to deploy, affordable and secure solution for networks of all sizes and configurations. 

FlowView Plus provides an easy to understand summary of activity with the ability to download a complete packet capture for WireShark analysis. Non-engineers can view a simple summary of the top users, top applications and any warnings seen in the packet capture right within the web user interface; and expert users can download the capture to get a full forensic playback of the activity on the network. Although there is still work to do before the right balance is struck between simplicity and detail in the realm of packet analysis, this is a big step in the right direction.

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