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Archive for the ‘Cloud’ Category

Managing Network Performance for Video Conferencing (Including “Video Sprawl”)

cisco-telepresenceToday’s video conferencing and telepresence solutions offer amazing reliability, incredible business value and a huge range of features and price points. No wonder there’s so much video running on enterprise networks!

But like other IP-based applications from VoIP, to SaaS, to virtual desktops, video conferencing applications are highly sensitive to network performance. The health of your network is vitally important to your business – and video conferencing can have a major impact on network performance. You need to know how your network is performing to ensure that your phone calls and videoconferences don’t degrade or blip out completely.

Managing network performance for video conferencing deployments requires two levels of insight:

  1. The ability to measure and manage network performance metrics like bandwidth, jitter and packet loss to ensure consistent service quality across your growing portfolio of deployed IP-based applications.
  2. Knowledge of the ever-growing network utilization and the impacts associated with all the desktop-to-desktop, browser-based video calls your employees are making for business and personal reasons – so-called “video sprawl.” (Streaming media, personal mobile devices and other ad hoc network usage further adds to “sprawl.”)

Many companies are deploying new videoconferencing services and essentially hoping they’ll “just work.” But “hope is not a strategy” – it’s a risky path. To mitigate that business risk, you need a solution to access the capacity of your network prior to deployment. Further, you need a process for monitoring network performance in real-time across your entire extended enterprise, so that you can verify service levels and understand what users are experiencing.

How can you ensure that your network is ready and able to support new video conferencing deployments? AppNeta is sponsoring a 60-minute webinar with No Jitter today (Wednesday, June 15) at 11AM Pacific/2PM Eastern Time on the topic: “Best Practices for Managing the Performance of Your Video Conferencing Deployments (Those You Know About and Those You Don’t).”

If your organization is in the midst of rolling out videoconferencing (and whose isn’t?), this objective, reliable information will be just what you need. Please join us live, or stop back later to hear the recording.

To learn more about AppNeta’s affordable, cloud-based network performance management solutions and how they can help maximize the value and performance of your videoconferencing and other IP-based business services, visit www.appneta.com.

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Listening to the radio at work used to be just about keeping the volume down. But with the skyrocketing popularity of Pandora, Vevo.com, Shoutcast, SoundCloud and other Internet radio services, the issue has become one of exhausting scarce bandwidth on overtaxed corporate networks.

Employees are accustomed to enjoying Internet radio services at home, and many no doubt access them at work without even thinking about it. But streaming audio over the company network basically amounts to continuously downloading an endlessly large file. To those sessions, add the viewing of YouTube, CNN, ESPN, millions watching the Masters and NCAA tournament online during business hours, plus some Skype online video conference calls, and even the most robust network can take a major performance hit.

If enough people are consuming streams of web-based media, especially at peak times, your business may be maxing out its available Internet bandwidth, leading to lost productivity in the form of desperately slow SaaS applications, dropped VoIP calls and crashing virtual desktops.

It can be difficult to police these bandwidth intensive connections with traditional network tools, because they are going out from inside the firewall. And simply blocking streaming video and/or audio on the network is often not a good solution because employees increasingly need access to these rich media information sources to do their jobs.

How can you know where your bandwidth is going and how your network is performing – not only at the home office but also at remote sites? What’s needed are performance management solutions  that can 1) detect and notify you about network performance degradation and spikes in bandwidth utilization in real-time, and 2) give you visibility into what applications are running on the network and what IP addresses are associated with them. On (hopefully) rare occasions you will also want the capability to automatically capture the packets that are being downloaded, for detailed forensic analysis.

With its recent introduction of the FlowView add-on module to the PathView Cloud service, Apparent Networks now offers the only integrated solution that can cost-effectively gather all this remote performance management data across the distributed enterprise. FlowView enables network engineers to understand who is going where and doing what on the internet in real time. With this insight, there is a complete picture of network traffic and bandwidth consumption causing serious application performance problems and failure.

Enabled by the free, zero administration Pathview microAppliance, the PathView Cloud solution requires no special hardware and uses almost no bandwidth. Its remote analysis interface is simple and secure.

To learn more about remote performance management and the PathView Cloud solution, visit www.apparentnetworks.com.

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!

Are you considering moving business-critical applications like e-mail, financial management, backup/recovery and CRM to the cloud? Or maybe you’re already on your way? 

It’s clear that cloud computing has arrived, and businesses of all sizes are taking advantage of it even faster than initially predicted. Gartner rates it as the top strategic technology for 2011, and surveys from MarketBridge, IBM and many others show that the great majority of small to midsize businesses (SMBs) plan to move key applications to the cloud in 2011. Cost savings, improved security and greater scalability are just a few of the reasons why transitioning to the cloud is appealing to so many organizations.

 But, the cloud is not a cure-all. While providing all of these benefits, it does not eliminate your application performance challenges!  Cloud-based application delivery depends entirely on high-bandwidth, low-latency networks.  When the networks are experiencing packet loss, jitter or excessive latency, these services will degrade rapidly and fail abruptly. 

 Isn’t that your cloud provider’s problem? Probably not. In most cases the provider is not responsible for anything beyond their data center and network. They are not obliged to monitor the delivery of hosted services end-to-end to your users, across networks they don’t control.

 Traditional network management tools for monitoring data center infrastructure cannot measure end-to-end performance of distributed, IP-based services.

For example: most cloud-based applications run on TCP, which is highly location dependent. The distance that packets of data traverse between your cloud provider and your users makes a significant contribution to overall performance.

 This is also one reason why performance management is entirely relative to location. To understand what level of service your distributed users are experiencing, and what to do if it’s degraded, you need the perspective of performance at and from that location. 

 

Remote Performance Management lets you remotely and continuously monitor whatever network infrastructure (WAN, remote LAN, VPN and/or web-based) is supporting the IP-based applications your users are consuming, whether those services hosted in a cloud, in your data center, or a combination of both.

 With Remote Performance Management you can accurately measure packet loss, jitter, latency and available bandwidth hop-to-hop and end-to-end, so you can monitor service quality and identify network problems – before they impact your end users! Delivered as a cloud-based service, the PathView Cloud service can be installed in minutes, uses almost no network bandwidth, and is scalable, secure and cost-effective for SMBs and enterprises alike.

 To learn how your organization remote manage and monitor your cloud-based services from any remote location, visit www.apparentnetworks.com.

Don’t you hate when service providers refuse to acknowledge the issue is on their end?

It really annoys me when a support team fobs you off with generic answers showing their thinly veiled disinterest. For this last tale I chose one very close to home for us here at Apparent.  I want to show that we practice what we preach!  We use a hosted VoIP provider that offers multiple servers throughout North America.  We started seeing sporadic voice loss to one particular server, Server X.  When the issue was raised to the attention of our provider, it was suggested we simply use one of the other servers.  We did this, but we wanted to prove a point and here’s how we did it: Whenever we saw an issue on Server X an issue was raised.  At first we received canned responses indicating a possible issue with our network.

Ok, I thought, they don’t know how to read the diagnostic… Let’s help!  I proceeded to setup microAppliances across 3 ISP networks here in Vancouver.  The next time we saw an issue I proceeded to forward path monitoring & diagnostic data from 3 sites reflecting the same issue at the exact same time.  I provided a brief write-up explaining what it all was, and this time they listened!  The case was escalated to the senior engineering team straight away and a big thank you was sent back for bringing the issue to light! !

So there you go; nothing but the straight goods.  Got a question?  Ping support.  We’re here to help.

You can reach me or the rest of the Apparent Networks Support Team at support@apparentnetworks.com.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) deployments are irresistibly appealing to organizations of all sizes, especially those with multiple sites. From browser-based access, to painless installations and upgrades, to minimal IT overhead, seamless scalability, and lower TCO, SaaS is a smart, cost-effective option.

SaaS differs from “cloud” in that SaaS applications can be hosted inside a company’s firewall, as well as remotely. More and more businesses are using SaaS for mission-critical applications like e-mail, financial management, ERP, backup and disaster recovery, HR management, collaboration and CRM. But, by definition, SaaS solutions are accessed over a network – and therefore run into performance challenges, threatening service degradation and more often failure.

Most SaaS deployments are significantly more sensitive to network performance and availability than traditional, on-premise software or even transaction-based network applications like e-mail. This is equally true for a wide range of network-dependent services not generally considered “SaaS,” such as VoIP, video conferencing and virtual desktop infrastructure.

These mission-critical services depend on high-bandwidth, low-latency networks to deliver an acceptable user experience. Issues such as packet loss, latency and jitter can make today’s performance-dependent networked services fail – abruptly! When calls and video sessions are dropped, backups don’t happen and business software disappears into the “cloud,”  and business stops.

The quality of users’ experience is a defining factor in the success of a SaaS deployment. But how do you measure service quality or adherence to SLAs from a remote user’s viewpoint? How do you know when service is degraded or what to do about it? This lack of visibility into the remote user’s experience of hosted services is a major stumbling block preventing organizations, from SMBs to large enterprises, from enjoying the benefits of SaaS.

Apparent Networks’ “State of Cloud Services” survey of network managers released in March 2010, found that:

  • 50% of cloud consumers have no performance measurement SLAs.
  • 75% of cloud users are unable to measure network performance between their users and the cloud provider.

Remote Performance Management enables remote, real-time monitoring of whatever network(s) your SaaS applications or other IP-based services are running on, whether hosted remotely, in-house, or a combination of both.

With Remote Performance Management you can measure end-to-end service quality, troubleshoot performance degradation and pinpoint network problems. Available as a cloud-based service, it takes minutes to install, is highly scalable and cost-effective for organizations of any size.

Visit www.apparentnetworks.com for more information.

Managing remote network sites?

Deploying distributed business services that are critically dependent on predictable network performance?

Caught up in the finger-pointing crossfire of frustrated end users?

For healthcare providers, banks, retailers and many other organizations with remote offices, ensuring the availability of IP-based applications like e-mail, collaboration tools, VoIP, video conferencing, desktop virtualization and remote data storage to distributed sites is absolutely vital.

But, it can be next to impossible to gain visibility into the performance of networked applications that connect remote users to centralized resources. Whether that network is a WAN, remote LAN, VPN, service provider cloud, or web-based, how do you effectively monitor and manage network performance at, and from, your remote sites?

The key thing to recognize is that performance management is a location dependent process. You need to understand the performance of business services from the perspective of your remote sites. That’s a challenge that traditional, SNMP-based, datacenter-centric performance management tools aren’t much help with.  These types of tools have a very hard time seeing “through the cloud” once you run into a network element that you don’t own (e.g. over MPLS or the internet).

To understand what’s happening with business services at remote sites – without having to pay them a visit – you need Remote Performance Management capabilities. Remote Performance Management lets you remotely and continuously monitor performance for any network infrastructure used for the deployment of IP-based services, however they’re hosted. Remote Performance Management enables you to:

  • Continuously monitor overall network performance, Quality of Service and adherence to SLAs (yours and your providers’).
  • Measure jitter, packet loss, bandwidth and latency hop-to-hop, end-to-end – and identify where the problem is located.
  • Proactively troubleshoot network and application performance with tools like packet capture and flow record analysis.
  • Assess the network’s readiness for new services before you deploy them.

Remote Performance Management addresses the challenge of gaining end-to-end visibility into your users’ experience by delivering insight in both directions between your datacenter and your remote sites – through third-party and public networks as well as your own. Delivered as a hosted service, it’s both cost-effective and simple to deploy and administer.

To learn more, visit www.apparentnetworks.com.


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