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Network Performance Monitoring Pressure Ratchets Up

As more enterprises turn to cloud computing, IT administrators are finding there's no single administrative viewpoint that can look across the entire network.

Haseeb Budhani, chief product officer at Infineta Systems in San Francisco, says enterprises need to solve latency and WAN bottleneck issues across the network to move big data traffic between data centers. The company's recently announced FlowTune feature set attempts to address those issues.

"One of the problems we found is the bandwidth deployed between data centers for things such as storage applications, backup, etc., was entirely unaddressed four years ago," he says. "We focus on what we call the big traffic WAN that's tying data centers together ... For every data packet being processed, if I were to add a few milliseconds of latency it's not a big deal. But if I add a few milliseconds of latency to every block of data being replicated between data centers, over time that adds up and my overall process, be it for storage or moving a specific amount of data within a specific amount of time, those goals will not be met."

FlowTune aims to solve two significant IT pain points: buying more bandwidth to deal with the growing volume of data and stopping data packets from being dropped when there isn't enough bandwidth available.

So are organizations buying more bandwidth in an effort to deal with WAN bottlenecks, or are they trying to make due with "old school" network monitoring tools? ESG did some research last year specifically around WAN connections to remote offices and branch offices and found most were still buying more bandwidth to solve problems. The consultancy did see an increase in organizations buying WAN optimization technology to help defer costs, however.

"Clearly, though there is an increased effort to determine what is going over the pipes, which was reported as a major challenge for them, and to find out what applications are hogging all the bandwidth," says Laliberte. "With the Olympics coming up this summer, for instance, organizations need to decide if they are going to allow employees to watch the events at work ... It's not just the Olympics, though; with video becoming a more important part of communications at large organizations, it will be imperative to know if a CEO corporatewide broadcast has enough bandwidth to work successfully."

Michael Witherspoon, manager of network integration services at Co-operators General Insurance in Guelph, Ontario, was charged with finding a solution that would allow one of Canada's largest insurance companies to ensure that it was receiving the network throughput for which it was paying top dollar. Being a financial institution, it was also a matter of regulatory compliance and not solely a corporate mandate.

"Our network is a wholly managed solution provided by a large service provider right up to and including the ports on the switch in our LAN closet. As part of that managed service, they don't provide us with much visibility into the network," he explains. "Most use SNMP to provide all kinds of statistical and current information on your network. Because of their security policies, they wouldn't allow us to have SNMP access."

The kind of reporting information Co-operators was being given was far too basic to provide any kind of real group performance management information.

"It was barely adequate enough to provide us with any type of SLA measurements," says Witherspoon. "I'm sure if we worked with them they could provide better tools, but then there would be a length of time for them to implement and a cost to it, etc."

Thus, Co-operators conducted a trial run of AppNeta's PathView Cloud and found about a dozen locations where it had requested certain service levels, but the service provider was not holding up its end of the rope.

"That allowed us to go back and get a credit from them in the neighborhood of $70,000, which in turn I used to buy AppNeta's product," says Witherspoon.

Simplifying network performance tools and reducing the cost to deploy them is in high demand, according to AppNeta's Stevens.

"Too many network performance tools are complicated, heavyweight, there's a lot of installation required, you have to go procure hardware and figure out where you're going to install it and the IT team that's going to manage it," he says. "What ends up happening is your IT staff ends up viewing network management as one more task that they have to do."

PathView Cloud is a cloud-delivered product designed to provide IT teams with the data regarding what's happening on their networks and which devices and users are contributing to performance problems.

"We think it boils down to you need to understand the path, the application and the network traffic," says Stevens. "It's a combination of these multiple vantage points that allows you get your arm around network performance and implement what we consider performance management lifecycle."

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