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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!


unified-communicationsThe cost reduction and infrastructure consolidation benefits of Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) are so compelling that many organizations are rolling out these services without a solution to manage the user experience.

UC&C aims to converge telephony, messaging, mobile communications, video conferencing and presence-enabled applications onto a common, IP-based network. But chances are that network is already burdened with a host of services, from e-mail to SaaS applications to Internet media streams to online storage to virtual desktops.

The more traffic is loaded onto the network – and the greater the distance between the users and the services consumed – the higher the risk of poor network performance and application failure. UC&C applications, like many of today’s complex, network-dependent applications, falter and crash abruptly as soon as network performance degrades below a specific threshold. Even minor performance issues often result in degraded VoIP call quality, faltering videoconferences, or complete service failure.

Companies that hope to simply “drop in” UC&C services and expect they’ll work with no significant hiccups are taking a major business risk. To assure service delivery, UC&C systems demand stable and dependable network performance. This means not just sufficient bandwidth, but also minimal latency, packet loss and jitter.

Traditional, SNMP-based network management tools aren’t capable of monitoring the experience of remote users accessing IP-based services, which are entirely dependent on real-time network performance. Netflow analysis tools can help bridge the performance management gap, but they generally require significant bandwidth and are expensive to deploy and manage. Few organizations have the cash to deliver netflow analysis to and at the remote sites where the capability is most needed.

Network engineers and CTOs are well aware that in many cases their tools lack the “intelligence” needed to manage service levels across an ever-growing range of IP-based applications, including UC&C. Problem resolution becomes a time-consuming crapshoot, and capacity planning is simply a question of “how much bandwidth can we afford?”

To understand what’s happening with UC&C at remote sites, you need integrated network performance management capabilities that enable you to continuously monitor service levels end-to-end across any network infrastructure running IP-based services – even those hosted by third parties. You need to be able to:

  • Quickly and accurately assess a network’s readiness for a new or expanded UC&C deployment
  • Continuously monitor the performance of on-premise, hosted SIP or fully hosted UC&C services over any network
  • Cost-effectively measure and report on specific SLAs to meet and ensure the performance needs of your users

AppNeta’s cloud-based PathView Cloud network performance management solutions deliver instant value through actionable insight into the network performance metrics that are vital to the success of your UC&C deployments.

To learn more about how PathView Cloud technology can enable you to successfully manage the performance of your UC&C services, visit  www.appneta.com.

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Today marks the launch of AppNeta.

Born of the best of the technology and team of Apparent Networks, AppNeta has a bold vision to bring the benefits of cloud-computing to the world of performance management. The transformation to AppNeta started in concept nearly two years ago, gained its first traction with the launch of PathView Cloud just over a year ago, and becomes official today with our first 1,000 customers under management and the official launch.
Apparent Networks has long been known for having compelling technology in the area of Network Performance Management, although compelling is probably an understatement.  Our core “Path” technology has been used by some of the worlds largest enterprise and IT Outsourcing accounts for years.  It has been judged by some of the most demanding customers in the world as the gold-standard for distributed network performance management (NPM).

Compelling?…YES.  Easy to deploy?  Affordable?  These were seldom the words that were used to describe the legacy solutions delivered by Apparent.  For customers who really needed our solution, there was no alternative.  Our patented Path technology remains the leading solution available in the market today.  But there were many (many!) customers who could see the value, but for whom the bar was set too high in terms of cost of acquisition and ownership.  All of that has changed with AppNeta.

Our mission at AppNeta is to deliver instant-value to network leaders by providing the insight they need to guarantee the reliable delivery of networked applications such as VoIP, Video, Cloud Services and Virtualization.

Instant-value?…YES.

A cloud-based service that is enabled by a zero administration microAppliance.  Just plug it in and gain unparalleled insight in support of your networked applications.  AppNeta’s solutions are simple to deploy and manage.  No software to download, no hardware to acquire, provision or manage.  Just plug in your microAppliance (included free with your annual SaaS contract) and get immediate network performance insight through the cloud, WAN or VPN.  Application performance insight from the perspective of your remote sites?  Absolutely.  All part of an affordable annual service contract.

What’s in a name?  In this case, the future of performance management.

AppNeta.  Instant-value in Network Performance Management.

Check it out at www.appneta.com

Santa Claus.  The Easter Bunny.  Good tasting, fat-free snack foods.  Myths?  Maybe so.

But one absolute myth that is 100% untrue, and that 99% of the vendors of network performance solutions have been perpetrating for years (and whose users have been gobbling up like zero calorie french fries…) is the myth of bandwidth; more specifically, the myths of utilized and available bandwidth.

Before I do my online version of “Myth Busters”, let’s take a minute to define a few key terms, bandwidth and throughput.

Although often used interchangeably (and used differently outside the world of networking…) when it comes to IP networking, these terms refer to two very different things.

  • Bandwidth speaks to the capacity of a given network and
  • Throughput speaks to how many bits per second actually traveled across the network.

Huh?

Ok, think of your network as a water pipe.  At a given fixed water pressure, the diameter of the pipe will determine the maximum amount of water that can flow through the pipe. That is the bandwidth.  A bigger pipe, more capacity (bandwidth) – smaller diameter pipe less bandwidth (capacity).

If we stood at the far end of the pipe and measured how much water arrived, now we know the pipe’s actual throughput.  If the pipe had perfectly consistent diameter along its’ entire length and there are zero leaks, and if the water only had to travel in one direction at the same speed all of the time, then the throughput and the bandwidth of the pipe would be the same.

Of course, even in your homes, there are often small leaks; and changes in the size and back-pressure of the pipes happen all the time as different faucets open and close. Very seldom does any system of pipes (even a small system like in your house…) manage to have the throughput come close to 100% of bandwidth (capacity).  It gets worse with complexity. If we look at municipal water systems across the U.S., the average system loss is 16% (or more than 800 billion gallons a year …) and many larger cities are dealing with losses of 20 to 30% or more. Yikes!

How does this relate to IP networks?

Well, if the bandwidth (capacity) was the exactly the same along the entire length of the network service delivery path (source IP to destination IP), the packets only travel in direction all the time, the distance the packets travel remains constant (no route changes…), and there was no cross traffic to deal with, zero packet loss or other slow downs (including duplex mismatches, MTU misalignment, QoS bits being stripped or remapped, serialization or processing delays, etc), then network throughput and network bandwidth would be the same.

But we all know that on complex WANs (or even a moderately complex LANs or Wireless LANs (WLAN), there are many conditions that prevent throughput from equalling bandwidth (capacity).  Since the primary determining factor of throughput is the actual bandwidth (capacity), getting your arms around this figure is the first step to understanding your actual throughput – and this is where the myth of bandwidth is most often passed along by vendors today.  Solutions that measure the “what is” bits per second (bps) values – regardless of if they get the bps values by asking the network elements themselves via SNMP, WMI or NetFlow or if they perform packet sniffing and count actual packets “on the wire” –  all chart those values against the provisioned (or theoretical…) capacity of the network based on a value the user enters.  Have a GigE network interface on your server? BAM!  Your maximum bandwidth is 1000 Mbps.  Leasing a T3 from your carrier?  Whammo! Your maximum bandwidth is 45 Mbps.  Then the vendors chart the measured “what is” bps values against the user entered total bandwidth values and you in turn get a mythical utilization and available bandwidth result. Lions, tigers and bears – oh my!

There are other commercial and open source solutions that attempt to measure network throughput via packet flooding. However, many of these solutions propagate the reverse myth that throughput equals bandwidth (capacity).  Of course running a packet flooder can only give you an accurate throughput value when the nothing else is running on the network (when is that again?) and these kinds of solutions tend to really annoy the application owners because they completely fill up the network.  But from a pure performance measurement perspective, their throughput results really tell you nothing about bandwidth (capacity) – they tell you the throughput of your water pipes, but you have no idea if the diameter is in fact what you’re paying for.  The myth goes both ways unfortunately.

Yet the biggest danger of the bandwidth myth is that you don’t really have an accurate and timely understanding of the true capacity of your service delivery paths.  If you operate your network (and support the applications that in turn rely on the network…) based on the mythical figures produced by your SNMP tool, you may in fact be operating FAR closer to point of application failure than to you realize. Far worse, you may ALREADY be experiencing application failure or other application delivery quality issues and looked your bandwidth chart and said “Well, I’ve got plenty of available capacity, so that’s not it” when that was PRECISELY the problem which resulted in high loss, or irregular jitter patterns that made your application delivery suffer.   You were the victim of a false negative, which often are hardest things to deal with when troubleshooting.

The path-based technology in PathView Cloud is in fact a real-time myth buster.   Through a patented methodology that measures the true end-to-end service delivery path, we determine the layer 3 network’s true maximum achievable capacity (bandwidth) and the utilized capacity and can therefore paint the true picture of available capacity. This works over any IP-based network be LAN, WAN, Wifi or satellite and you can measure the true network capacity across third-party networks and even into end-points that you have no access to, cloud-based or otherwise.   The best part is that we do this every 60 seconds with such a low touch (around 20 packets per minute…), that your applications won’t even know we’re there standing guard.

On a complex network it’s pretty rare to have bandwidth (capacity) be equal to throughput, in fact I’m pretty sure if such a network does exist, you’ll find the Easter Bunny having a fully immersive video conference with Santa Claus, each watching the other enjoying their delicious zero calorie french fries.


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