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Greg Wolf
Greg Wolf is a principal with NetForecast, helping to develop and implement performance engineering practices for enterprises. Greg has more...
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Greg Wolf | June 21, 2012 |

 
   

Staying Ahead of the Design Curve

Staying Ahead of the Design Curve Getting a robust and flexible monitoring solution implemented as early as possible in your network design process will pay big dividends down the road.

Getting a robust and flexible monitoring solution implemented as early as possible in your network design process will pay big dividends down the road.

Designing and implementing networks that provide connectivity is one thing; maintaining them so they meet the ongoing needs of an organization is quite a different matter. The afterglow of implementation begins the process of adds, moves, and changes that are all the natural parts of network engineering. The decentralization of users, resources, and the real-time demands of applications can make this task even more challenging. Luckily there are things that can be done to help mitigate this challenge.

Traffic monitoring provides insight into how your network performs over time. Although the smart bet is to make sure monitoring is in place when the network is first implemented, it sometimes gets cut, especially when budgets are tight. This is the time when you need to dig your heels in and fight even harder for this valuable resource. Monitoring traffic is a key component to keeping communications costs in check--and those communications costs far exceed the cost of the monitoring equipment and/or service.

Furthermore, traffic monitoring provides insights into how the network is being used, which enables you to keep the network running efficiently. Network efficiency in the age of unified communications (UC) is synonymous with network harmony.

An efficient use of bandwidth occurs when multiple types of applications coexist on the same network. Making a VoIP call requires a set amount of bandwidth, which cannot be allowed to be impacted by browser traffic or FTP downloads. Ensuring this happens properly is not a trivial task and does not happen automatically. It requires traffic engineering, which is the task of making informed design decisions based on a range of information.

Traffic monitoring provides information about network characteristics, which are only a piece of the overall equation. The other piece of the puzzle is to understand the requirements and priorities of the organization. Combining this data allows you to implement the right traffic engineering policies to meet the goals of the organization. Traffic monitoring also allows you to justify bandwidth upgrades, troubleshoot problems faster, and modify existing traffic policies to accommodate changes as new applications and usage patterns emerge.

Traffic monitoring solutions range in price and functionality. However, at the end of the day you must make sure that you get the information you need to do your job. NetForecast has been using a solution by a company called AppNeta, which consists of cloud-based software that communicates with probes, called microAppliances. Implementation of the solution is straightforward and does not take a lot of time. The first step is picking the sites that you want monitored. Every monitored site requires its own probe. Ideally the more sites you monitor the better. If that is not possible, the key is to pick strategic sites, such as a datacenter and a few strategic offices that generate and receive business critical traffic.

Step two is registering each probe with AppNeta's cloud-based software solution called PathView. The last step is to define "paths" between the probes or to destinations on the Internet, such as frequently used websites. Each path is continually monitored, which provides metrics about connectivity, latency on a hop-by-hop basis, data loss, jitter, and the available bandwidth between any two points.

Regardless of the product you use, the key is to make sure you use a solution that provides insight into your network on a continual basis. AppNeta is just one of many solutions available in the marketplace. Getting a robust and flexible monitoring solution implemented as early as possible in your network design process will pay big dividends down the road.





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