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Archive for the ‘Network Assessments’ Category

 

The benefits of virtualization are clear cut – massive financial savings in the long run. Virtualization enables organizations to use inexpensive hardware as terminals for multiple desktops which lowers costs in energy, hardware, maintenance and licensing. From a daily user’s standpoint, the convenience of accessing their personal desktops from any device effectively accelerates their time-to-value. However, the transition to virtualization can be costly and companies have to cough up now to achieve the benefits later.

Virtualization enables users to access distributed enterprise applications securely from any remote client device — when it works. If the network fails to perform against defined standards, end users of virtual applications and desktop sessions experience sluggish performance, system freezes and often outright disconnects. Regardless if Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)  is hosted in your own data center, or remotely, all performance issues – and finger pointing – will come down hard on an IT team.

While occasionally hosted on the LAN, VDI is more commonly reached over a WAN connection. If the performance of this link cannot be ensured, there is no point in virtualizing. Due to the nature of virtualization, a majority of stalls occur when employees are accessing their desktops over the WAN. Critical VDI links can become compromised during peak usage and need to be continuously monitored.

While we all know the frustration that slow applications produce, end users have zero patience for latency or poor performance when it comes to their entire desktop. VDI carries the highest sensitivity level of all applications and its success rating is directly dependent on user satisfaction.

IT professionals who do not pre-asses the network before virtualizing, put their jobs on the line. It is common to underestimate how much data is cycling weekly until there are attempts to move it, and taking an accurate reading of the WAN link is critical. Virtual software providers offer bandwidth requirements – but can the network guarantee that that bandwidth is available? Even during peak utilization? Is there space left to grow?

Requirements for a Successful VDI deployment

• Insight into the critical links while continuously monitoring the performance of VDI from the perspective of your remote site end users.

• Understanding of the measurement from the connection of end users back to the server and the ability to compare real-time against the key performance indicators needed by VDI services to perform properly.

• Alerting and reporting on network issues affecting system and virtualized application performance for pro-active troubleshooting.

Current tools used to monitor VDI include Xangati, Liquid Labs and Lakeside. These solutions are critical for monitoring the health and state of the virtual machines or locations where the application is being consumed. This means that the connection between end users and the virtualized servers is often left unsupervised. There may be green lights showing for all the devices, yet the phone is bright red with complaints. When polling devices produce a summary every few minutes, seconds of latency can be invisible on a monitoring screen, but it won’t be to the engineer who receives the phone call. VDI performance is dependent on the links between remote users and servers.

PathView Cloud offers the ability to assess, monitor and remotely troubleshoot performance from a virtual or physical system to any other target across LANs, WANs, even segments you don’t own or manage.

Want to learn more? Visit AppNeta or start a free trial on your network today!

"Many customers looking to implement a VoIP solution for the first time have absolutely no idea how critical a clean data path is to its usability. We use PathView and PathView Cloud to get an in-depth look at a customer's network health. It's like an MRI for their IT departments." – Eric Knaus, president of RonEK Communications


How are you ensuring a successful transition before plugging in the first phone?

VoIP, Video and Unified Communications are highly cost-effective network services. While your wallet may be breathing a sigh of relief, your network is about to get the wind knocked out of it by the  weight of VoIP and video conferencing services. Network performance is dependent on existing applications and user activity so network engineers implementing VoIP must take this into account.

In the past, enterprise companies dedicated a separate network or connection specifically for VoIP. If the phones don’t work, your business stops. For many organizations, adding to the existing network demand and performance challenges is unrealistic.

Throwing VoIP onto a network without pre-assessing is like jumping into a pool without checking for water (ouch!). Without a full comprehensive inspection of your surroundings, the results will be painful.

As VoIP moves toward a standard application regardless of business size, network engineers are forced to piggy back VoIP onto the existing infrastructure. And for any network engineer who wants to maintain the performance of existing applications AND ensure the performance of the new VoIP services, a pre-deployment network assessment is critical

An Effective VoIP Assessment will:

• Measure the call load capability of the network

• Identify the faults and shortcomings of the network

• Provide a holistic view of the network’s ability to handle data and voice traffic

• Lower the project’s cost estimates

• Verify service level agreements (SLAs)

• Eliminate the network as a gating factor in the VoIP project

A functioning network does not always equal a prepared network. Issues in the infrastructure may not be visible until the weight of a VoIP implementation crushes it.

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But where are the problems that are going to obstruct VoIP performance?

Three key benefits to conducting Advanced Network Assessments:

1. Test how well the network will perform without deploying a single device. VoIP pre-deployment assessment should look at the current state of the converged network, evaluate its ability to support VoIP and identify the dysfunctions that are restricting performance and the requirements to meet call load need.

2. Look at the life-cycle of your network in relation to VoIP. Generate call loads over days or weeks to take into account on and off peak network services. See in real-time how scheduled back-ups, data uploads and periodic events will affect voice quality.

3. Simplicity. Take it one site at a time. If the company decides to bring on a new location, your assessment process should not start from scratch.

Pre-deployment assessments should be done prior to purchasing or deploying any VoIP equipment or making any upgrades. Get yourself a complete analysis of the end-to end data network, recording important measurements such as bandwidth, utilization, throughput, loss, jitter, latency and MOS. A proper assessment will identify and isolate faults on the network that currently inhibit application performance.

PathView Cloud will ensure a successful VoIP deployment and ongoing performance. PathView Cloud generates a series of packet bursts that are placed on the network in a proprietary manner and collect the information required for a full analysis of the involved network segment from end-to-end

Want to learn more? Visit AppNeta or do a FREE pre-assessment on your network today with the 14-day free trial!

The job of a network engineer or network administrator is to solve problems; everything from backups to cables to firewalls to viruses. All of these tasks are related to moving data moving across the network in an optimal and efficient manner so that users can do the work that drives the business.

Every network engineer’s job is different but one thing is for sure – with the exploding use of IP-based technologies from VoIP to cloud services, coupled with the corresponding growth in network size and complexity – it isn’t getting any easier.

The challenges associated with keeping today’s overburdened networks secure, predictable and healthy are numerous, but these three related concerns would top most network engineers’ lists:

 

  1. Security
  2. Maintenance and monitoring
  3. Performance management

Security

Practically everyone who uses information technology, let alone IT professionals, is aware that information security is a battle without end. Some specific security threats that are on the rise include malware targeting smartphones and tablets, the “consumerization” of enterprise applications on personal devices, and the need for security to evolve in line with private cloud and virtual desktop infrastructure.

According to Bradford Networks, Business Computing World and other sources, the top network concerns for 2011 revolve around trends towards “more users” (employees and unmanaged users like business partners); “more mobile devices” (managed and unmanaged), and “IP everything” – the exponential growth of IP-based, networked applications and devices from VoIP to virtual desktop infrastructure to IP storage.

More systems, more endpoints and more access over the network means not only more security challenges, but also an intensifying need to monitor the increased traffic and ensure acceptable performance.

Maintenance and Monitoring

Monitoring and managing network traffic is a top concern in any IT department. This is especially the case as monitoring efforts are ubiquitously leveraged as a way to help meet network security and performance goals. However, monitoring and troubleshooting efforts are often hampered by a lack of effective tools and integrated reporting and alerting capabilities. Many network practitioners are likewise challenged by the need to capture, store and analyze vast amounts of monitoring data involving increasingly diverse types of IP-based traffic, from video streaming to SaaS applications.

In short, as more and more organizations leverage various monitoring options to support more users and more services more efficiently, many of the challenges that arise result from a need to cope with increasing – and increasingly diverse – network traffic.

Performance Management

Managing network performance may be the network engineer’s ultimate challenge. The ever-growing diversity and volume of IP-based services that today’s organizations increasingly rely on all in turn depend on adequate network performance. When bandwidth, jitter, packet loss or latency drops even slightly below tolerance thresholds, services quickly collapse. The more traffic the network carries – and the greater the number of hops between users and services – the higher the risk of poor network performance leading to application failure.

To ensure that users can do their jobs, network engineers must be able to:

  • Continuously monitor network performance metrics (jitter, packet loss, bandwidth, latency) in real-time across multiple, distributed sites
  • Troubleshoot VoIP, IP storage, virtual desktops and other IP-based applications
  • Understand what application instances are using what percentage of available bandwidth, and what IP addresses are associated with them
  • Assess the network’s readiness for new services before deploying them

AppNeta’s cloud-based PathView Cloud network performance management solutions provides these capabilities 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, PathView Cloud is both cost-effective and simple to deploy and manage.

Find out more about how AppNeta technology can help network engineers address the performance management challenges they face every day, and sign up for a free trial on your network today!

Today’s business services are increasingly dependent on predictable network performance and availability. At the same time, changes to network infrastructure  – such as the addition of IP-based services like VoIP, video conferencing and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS); the proliferation of Wi-Fi-connected devices; unmanaged elements such as streaming audio– all mean that performance requirements for your customers’ critical applications demand a much higher level of service delivery and quality assurance.

Recurring-RevenueFor MSPs, your ability to provide continuous insight into customers’ dynamic network infrastructure is critical to delivering your existing services and ensuring a quick, effective response to customer performance problems. Some key elements to assuring performance for your customers’ networks and building your business at the same time include:

— Providing monthly reporting and immediate performance alerts when issues arise.

— Differentiating your business by moving from a traditional, break-fix engagement model based on remediating failures to a proactive, strategic service tailored to customer needs.

— Reducing trouble tickets;  eliminating truck rolls and on-site engineers

How can your business transition from break-fix troubleshooting to continuously and proactively managing your customers’ network infrastructure?

PathView Cloud offers remote site network and application performance monitoring that delivers exceptional network insight, alerts, reporting and troubleshooting, from one integrated network performance management solution.

Here are three easy ways MSPs can use PathView Cloud to get started with new remote, continuous network performance monitoring services:

#1: Network health assessments

Proactive network assessments are a great way to highlight network issues, while showing your customers the value of continuous network performance monitoring. PathView Cloud lets you deliver not only comprehensive, point-in-time assessment reports, but also continuous assessments over a business cycle (e.g., seven to fourteen days). This information can lead directly to a managed services discussion.

#2: “Top talker” reporting at remote sites

Who is doing what on your customer’s network? PathView Cloud enables you to give customers periodic (e.g., monthly) net flow reports that deliver valuable insight into who and what is consuming network bandwidth. Like a network assessment, this information can illuminate network issues while also presenting an ideal opportunity to discuss managed service options.

#3: Cloud services readiness assessment

Assessing a customer network’s readiness for cloud services is a simple undertaking with PathView Cloud. AppNeta recommends running such assessments for seven days to capture a full business cycle. A pre-deployment assessment can save your customers significant time and money by providing a holistic view of their network’s ability to handle additional traffic, as well as identifying ongoing and  transient network issues. It also facilitates a discussion of the value of continuous monitoring services post-deployment to validate and ensure compliance with SLAs.

More and more MSPs are using PathView Cloud to realize ongoing revenue streams from unmatched remote site performance visibility and continuous network assessment offerings.  Check out the live PathView Cloud demo, or try PathView Cloud on your network today with a free 14-day trial!


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.

“Can you give me a use case where you created some value for a customer?”

As a systems engineer at Apparent Networks, we get this question a lot. A few months ago, I was working with a managed service provider (MSP) attempting to provide virtualization as a service for a housing association with 6 locations. As expected, we were using applications from Citrix & VMWare. High latency and data jitter, low capacity, packet loss and other various network impairments were serious challenges for the organization.. They had VPN tunnels established between offices using D-Link DIR-130s. Comcast was their ISP connecting all 6 locations. Immediately, after configuring their network, they started receiving major complaints- frequent disconnects, congestion and overall slowness.

The MSP deployed one microAppliance at the main office and one microAppliance at a secondary office using a PathView Cloud Assessment Kit. Diagnostic paths were set up in parallel to measure end-to-end performance through the VPN tunnel and again outside of the tunnel across the WAN, as well as to monitor impairments of the LAN. With PathView Cloud, we were easily able to monitor the unmanaged WAN between the two sites, through third party devices and through the housing association’s VPN tunnel.

We continued monitoring the network for a week to get a better sense of the situation during peak and off-peak times. The results were scary. There was a severe amount of packet loss inside of the VPN tunnel; conversely, loss outside the tunnel was marginal, often below 1%. We uncovered that targets within the local area networks at both ends had a mixture of duplex mismatches as well as poor Wi-Fi performance and media errors. These LAN issues however, were not the primary cause for the performance loss of the interoffice VPNs.

Using the new PathView  Path Comparison reporting capability, we were able to easily  trend, compare and analyze paths inside and outside of the VPN tunnel. Static IP addresses were added to the microAppliances, which were then plugged into the office sites- in a few minutes we were good to go. Yes, it really is that easy! After gathering data for just a day we were able to find a high degree and frequency of packet loss as shown in the above graph. Next, we set up dual-ended testing, with each microAppliance testing one direction of traffic (upload/download) to determine exactly where the loss was occurring. There were often spikes of up to 40% loss on the download side of the tunnel as shown in the graph below. It’s no wonder there were so many complaints about timeouts and slowness! With this much loss, the housing association was lucky that the VPN tunnel was even operating, let alone maintaining a connection. One other question we had was – What did traffic look like outside of the VPN tunnel? Perhaps Comcast was to blame for packet loss outside of the tunnel that resulted in an unstable VPN connection? To find out, we ran paths outside of the VPN, to and from the same locations. On the graph below, the blue line is the path setup between the remote office and one of Apparent Networks’ hosted appliances. This test gave us insight into performance outside of the VPN tunnel from the remote office to our appliance in NY. There is zero loss during the selected time range. Similar paths were setup at the main office and both the results and graphs were the same.

Using PathView’s path comparison, we pinpointed the problem to the routers creating the VPN tunnel themselves.  We determined there was data loss occurring and the network infrastructure was not to blame, leaving us with the two devices on each end of the VPN. Our final suggestion was to trade in the D-Link VPN routers for more industry grade equipment to establish a reliable tunnel for use with the virtualized applications. Needless to say the problem was resolved between these two sites. The proof is real, and the content was easy to print out as a deliverable for the end customer.  Not only did the housing association begin to use PathView Cloud for continual monitoring of their VPNs, they began to use it to  resolve the rest of their connectivity and performance issues within the LANs.

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!


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