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Posts Tagged ‘Network Assessment

"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!

Organizations making the move to cloud services are well aware of the many benefits like lower startup costs, lower total cost of ownership and on-demand scalability. But many companies fail to take a hard enough look at the corresponding challenges associated with application availability and performance.

For many cloud services deployments, network performance will be the key to application performance. Why? Because every business service accessed over cloud infrastructure is by definition a remote, network-dependent service. Every user becomes a remote user and every office, even the corporate headquarters, becomes a remote office.

Even services-based applications will stumble, freeze and eventually disconnect users when network bandwidth, jitter, latency or packet loss metrics drop below acceptable thresholds. Many of the applications being moved to cloud infrastructure were not originally designed for remote access, making them even more susceptible to changes in network performance.

In short: a successful cloud services deployment depends on your ability to guarantee application performance from the user’s perspective. That means you need to manage network performance.

What are the key steps for managing network performance for cloud service deployments?

One: Network assessment

The first step in ensuring a successful cloud services deployment is to perform a comprehensive baseline assessment of network performance. When rolling out cloud services – or other IP-based services like VoIP, video conferencing, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or IP storage – many organizations underestimate the operational and business risk associated with unplanned network impacts.

A network assessment is the only way to accurately know the scope of the project and its costs. It’s also the only way to know if your network is up to the task of carrying the extra traffic

Two: Continuous monitoring

Users need the performance of cloud-based services to be at least as good as what their current infrastructure delivers. To guarantee acceptable performance you need to be aware in real-time of the ever-changing status of the networks connecting remote users to applications. Latency, jitter and other key network performance metrics can fluctuate continuously in response to changes in traffic and other factors

Continuous monitoring capability is also required to give you real-time visibility into service levels. This is the basis for troubleshooting network problems, as well as for ensuring that cloud and other third-party providers are meeting their contractual commitments.

Further, the physical distance that data must take between the cloud and the user has a huge impact on performance, especially for TCP based applications. This parameter will vary among different public cloud providers, making monitoring performance over time an important step in evaluating cloud hosting options.

Three: Proactive troubleshooting

Today’s cloud-based services are business-critical and ensuring their availability is vital. Traditional break-fix approaches to network management are not adequate to meeting many of today’s SLAs.

Network engineers therefore need a way to pinpoint the exact cause and location of performance degradation — even within the virtual network and servers making up the cloud. This makes it possible proactively address network issues before they impact users. Likewise, if cloud services crash and a plethora of service providers start finger-pointing, you need to know, quickly and decisively, who is responsible for what.

Maximizing the business benefits of cloud deployments

How can organizations ensure that the performance of their network enables them to derive maximum benefits from cloud computing? AppNeta’s PathView Cloud technology enables you to guarantee application performance across all cloud, data center, remote office and mobile environments today. In addition to providing unmatched insight into network performance from the perspective of remote users, AppNeta’s cloud-based Pathview Cloud service delivers immediate time-to-value, affordable licensing and on-demand scalability.

Want to learn more? Join AppNeta on Thursday, September 8th, 2pm ET for the Preparing Your Enterprise Network for Cloud Services Deployment Webinar, or start your own free trial today!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When rolling out or expanding the use of a technology such as Unified Communications, many network administrators take one of two approaches:

  1. Install the new technologies and then address performance problems as they arise, or
  2. Try to anticipate that the addition of UC will increase their bandwidth needs, and as a result upgrade their bandwidth capacity.

The funny thing is if you were to follow the best practice guidelines for most VoIP and UC vendors, your first step would be to assess the current state and performance of your network. This seems like a perfectly logical first step…so why don’t people follow this advice?

From what we have seen in talking to UC Vendors, resellers and customers there are two main reasons:

  1. UC vendors tell you to perform this assessment, but do not provide or even recommend a tool to perform this assessment. Not to bite the vendor hand that feeds you, but performing a pre-deployment network assessment for VoIP or UC is a pretty specific and technically demanding situation – you’ve got to help your users out with at least a recommended tool.
  2. When vendors do provide a method of doing this assessment, often it’s a one time professional services based offering that typically costs $1,500 to several thousand dollars for a single snapshot of performance. These assessments can be very good and provide solid information, but with budgets as tight as they are, this often doesn’t make the final cut.

Ok, so what should you look for in a UC or VoIP network assessment tool?

  • Bandwidth is only one of many factors in VoIP performance This is why just throwing additional bandwidth to solve performance problems doesn’t work. Network utilization, propagation delay, jitter and packet loss are critical factors in voice quality so be sure that your assessment tool measures all of these performance indicators over you entire LAN and WAN.
  • Ensure your assessment tool can run over an extended period of time because both voice and data traffic volume will vary over the course of a day, week and longer. A week is the minimum for a serious assessment, and if your business is highly cyclical on a monthly or quarterly basis, you should run your assessment to capture at least one of these cycles.
  • Make sure the tool can test the capabilities of your network devices, such as support for QoS and maintenance of continuous QoS across the network. QoS not being enforced properly over WAN and MPLS network segments can severely degrade call quality and is extremely difficult to diagnose as a root cause.
  • Lastly, make sure your assessment tool can simulate the appropriate call load and codec for your chosen UC vendor. VoIP codecs have different network requirements and different performance profiles, a proper assessment tool will let you specify the precise codec and call load to test.

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