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Archive for the ‘Remote Performace Management’ Category

"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!

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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!

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.

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.

High-definition video conferencing from your computer or mobile device out to anyone, anywhere has arrived.

While all tiers of the video conferencing and telepresence marketplace are experiencing strong growth, the biggest leaps are happening with low-cost, desktop- and browser-based “single-codec” systems.

Among the many options in this burgeoning space:

  • Tandberg, now owned by Cisco, offers a range of office, desktop and mobile video conferencing and solutions that combine high quality with low cost.
  • Cisco also owns WebEx, which has long combined video conferencing and desktop sharing through a browser given sufficient bandwidth.
  • Skype currently offers “free” high-definition quality video calling on Windows that requires only an HD webcam and 512kbps connectivity.
  • The feature of the iPad 2 that’s creating the most buzz among executives is probably FaceTime video conferencing, which works quite well over wi-fi. The BlackBerry PlayBook will also include a video conferencing app.

For business as well as personal reasons, a skyrocketing number of ad hoc, browser-based video conferences will be going out over your network – sooner than you think!  Likewise, more and more organizations are installing affordable telepresence technology in executive offices and conference rooms.

The question you, and your IT team, need to ask is: Can your network handle this massive influx of extra traffic? How big of an impact will it have on the performance of all the other network-based services your business now relies on – from VoIP to SaaS/cloud applications to virtual desktops to online backups?

Every one of these critical systems will falter and fail abruptly if network performance degrades even slightly below a specific threshold. The greater the volume of traffic converging on the network, the greater the likelihood of service quality problems resulting in dropped calls, disrupted meetings, failed backups and reduced overall productivity.

While everyone is discussing the massive growth of video-conferencing, we are failing to talk about a key component – how will we deploy and manage the performance of this sensitive and now critical application?

Many businesses are expecting their new videoconferencing services to “just work.” But do they? Do you have a way to assess the capacity of your network prior to deployment? Can you successfully monitor network performance in real-time, both at the home office and at remote sites? What are your employees, partners and customers experiencing on the phone, in the conference room or at their computer?

To monitor and troubleshoot the performance of videoconferencing, VoIP, Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) and other IP-based applications, companies must look beyond traditional performance management solutions like SNMP tools. These systems aren’t designed to measure the quality of network-dependent services from the standpoint of distributed users, particularly when delivered over third-party and public networks.

To address the dynamic performance challenges associated with today’s converged IP networks requires Remote Performance Management capabilities. Remote Performance Management lets you pre-assess, monitor and troubleshoot how remote and co-located users are experiencing video conferencing, UC&C and other IP-based services, end-to-end, in real-time, from anywhere.

Available as a cloud-based service, PathView Cloud Remote Performance Management is easy to configure and manage, uses almost no network bandwidth and is cost-effective for organizations of any size. If you’re rolling out a video conferencing application, anytime soon, visit www.apparentnetworks.com for more information.

My field engineering team works with customers and partners in many regions and time zones, and we often host working sessions from remote locations.  This provides great opportunities to employ our own solutions and “eat our own dog food” to monitor and troubleshoot common services we use between sites.

I hosted a virtual technology workshop a few days ago  from our Portsmouth office.  We were working with a partner to propose a hosted VoIP PBX service management offer.  I started the meeting using Citrix Online’s GoToMeeting and dialed in using my Vonage business line. 

Early in the discussion I was interrupted by a brief click followed by…dead air.  Vonage has been very reliable from many locations, so I assumed this was a fluke and quickly rejoined the call.  A couple of minutes passed, and my call dropped again.  At this point I was having flashbacks to my days as a subscriper of  AT&T ‘s wireless network last year and experience with many call failures. 

I rejoined and offered my apologies, this time using my Sprint-powered Evo. 

Some of the team members were new to the project, so I took this opportunity to demonstrate PathView Cloud’s network performance monitoring and troubleshooting capability and used  our own experience as an example.

A PathView microAppliance in my office was monitoring my Internet connection all the way to a companion  device located in a San Francisco area hosted facility.  This shows the WAN performance from the remote office out over the Comcast cable network and out to ‘the cloud’ using a variety of protocols including ICMP, UDP, and TCP. 

As you can see from the performance charts, data and voice loss were substantial, peaking at 20% several times throughout the day.  Mean Opinion Score (MOS) suffered as well.  You can see a number of red diamond-shaped event markers indicating performance violations for the path.  

   

Looking at the same path in a dual-ended view, we see loss in both directions but peaking on the return leg – San Francisco to Portsmouth.  You can also see a lot of transience of the route taken by the UDP packets used by PathView.  Check out the yellow diamonds indicating each route change.

 

It’s no wonder I was having dropped VoIP calls!  Looking at the diagnostic showed a clear issue in the Comcast network, starting with the first hop near my office.  Packet loss in the range of 4-12 % was experienced when the diagnostic fired.  You can also see where the ISP is retagging the QoS values in the IP headers defined for the path.  This isn’t unheard of, since QoS is rarely supported over broadband networks and the best effort Public Internet. 

When troubleshooting an issue with VoIP over the WAN, you don’t necessarily have to own the hosted PBX to gain meaningful insight to the performance between your handset and the service.  Often times the problem is with the WAN connection, and you can easily use PathView Cloud to monitor the performance from your LAN out to a hosted microAppliance.  If you’re an existing PathView Cloud customer or partner, check out our support site for details on targeting one of our hosted microAppliances for this purpose. 

With a solid example of WAN performance affecting hosted VoIP quality as context we went on to complete a productive workshop that day. 

Our own dog food: delivered easily via the cloud, and it never tested so good!

-Adam

Web-based service delivery models like cloud computing, SaaS and VoIP are revolutionizing IT. These distributed deployments offer cost, scalability and manageability advantages too compelling to pass up.

But the performance of web-based applications is heavily dependent on the networks that deliver them to remote sites. A host of variable, intermittent factors can crash business-critical services. Network issues like jitter, packet loss and long latency times are compounded by the round-trip involved: an input from a user must first reach the remote server, which then processes it and sends a response back to the client.

Traditional datacenter tools that monitor application, server or network device performance are not designed to analyze network-dependent service levels at remote sites from the user’s perspective. For example, Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) based tools gather metrics that are vital for monitoring the health of network devices like routers and switches. But SNMP cannot tell you how well the network is doing overall at connecting users with data and applications.

Similarly, “ping checks” can give you a crude sense of the latency users are experiencing with web-based applications, but cannot provide the detailed network performance data necessary to gauge user experience as a whole. Website performance monitoring services provide insight from the perspective of “the internet” to public web services, but not from the perspective of end users to mission critical internal HTTP applications.

SaaS and cloud service providers monitor performance within their infrastructure, including internal connectivity with devices like servers. But who’s monitoring the health of the networks between the cloud and your users? How can you tell whether data packets traveling from the service inception point to the service consumption point are encountering problems along the way?

To get a sense of how well applications are working for your remote users, you need to see the full spectrum of bandwidth and performance characteristics of the distributed network, in real-time. That capability is called Remote Performance Management.

Remote Performance Management delivers performance insight from the perspective of the remote office user to the point of application delivery and back. Any deviation or interruption, such as congestion or data loss that could impact user experience, is immediately evident. All these metrics are reported for each hop in the network path – even across service provider networks.

With Remote Performance Management, you can detect and address increases in service response time across public networks, WANs, LANs and VPNs. You’ll know exactly when and where a problem is occurring and what’s causing it, so you can take quick and effective action.

To learn more about Remote Performance Management reporting capabilities, visit http://www.apparentnetworks.com/.


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