Wide-Open WAN

Fluke's OptiView Analyzer broadens the scope of your monitoring.

June 24, 2003

5 Min Read
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the products have a common interface that established Fluke Networks customers will recognize and that new customers will find easy to use.

The OptiView WAN Analyzer can work as a standalone tool or as part of a wider monitoring strategy. It not only works well with other tools from Fluke Networks, but also integrates with third-party management systems, including Concord Communications' eHealth suite and other industry-standard protocol-analysis platforms. The analyzer digs deep, actively discovering devices, routes, encapsulation types and more across WAN links. And with standard RMON and RMON2 reporting capabilities, SNMP trap generation and real-time event and trouble alerts, the OptiView WAN Analyzer makes quick work of demystifying the far end of the network with good local reporting.

Fluke's OptiViewclick to enlarge

Let There Be Light

The hardest part of installing the OptiView WAN Analyzer is arranging the interruption of the WAN link to be monitored. In my case,

I needed to coordinate a brief outage to an OC-3 link--not a particularly popular idea with most network managers, especially when the link is your ISP feed.The OC-3/OC-12 analyzer I tested required the insertion of a Fluke Networks optical tap to provide a path for the WAN signal to and from the edge router, through the analyzer. As bad luck would have it, the light in the fiber from my ISP was weak; the router could make use of it from the tap, but the analyzer couldn't, though it could make sense of the strong return optical signal from the router, meaning I was looking at half a link--not good.

After doing some head scratching and light-meter measurements, getting replacement taps from Fluke and doing more head scratching, I got to the point where I had a useful configuration to monitor--albeit compliments of a light amplifier added to the signal. (One recommendation: When you interrupt the link to insert the tap, measure the light strength from the ISP or the WAN source. If it doesn't meet the minimum required by the analyzer after loss from the tap, work with the signal provider to get a better strength.)

Configuring the analyzer for network management via serial connection is easy, and you only need to perform minimal configuration tasks to put the unit into service. For security, you can set easily configurable passwords for device access and packet capture.

When the box goes live, it begins discovery and analysis automatically. You can access the analyzer via the OptiView console software that loads on any Microsoft Windows 98, NT, 2000 or XP PC. Console control of the WAN Analyzer over the network is instantaneous, even at 10 Mbps when accessed from the Internet, and manipulation of the device is intuitive. Alarm notification sets up just as easily as the rest of the tool and provides quick alerts for link trouble.

Details, Please

The OptiView WAN Analyzer made short work of dissecting my OC-3 link, autodiscovering the ATM framing parameters in use. Within minutes, the analyzer's front page identified a couple of dozen routers, thousands of devices, link utilization, top conversations, top applications and virtual circuit information. Drilling down is a matter of mouse clicks, and you're rewarded with impressive details. For example, going from the front page to the list of worst offenders for KaZaa peer-to-peer use across my link took three clicks, and I could easily see which connections were using a particular application across all VCs (virtual circuits). In short, potentially thousands of pieces of relevant information are assimilated into one digestible view.

Analysis using the many views and tools is detailed and flexible. The analyzer's buffers maintain up to a week's worth of data--which is a bit on the stingy side for long-term trending, but data can be dumped into a database for longer term analysis.

As impressive as the OptiView WAN Analyzer is at identifying applications present on the link, there is room for a more complete--or even better, a user-definable--list of applications to monitor. Though the analyzer will classify hundreds of applications, too many will fall into the "Layer 3 Other" heading, meaning the analyzer sees them but can't classify them. This sort of evolving classification will be as much of a challenge for Fluke Networks and its competitors as it is for those in the packet-shaping game, and will require frequent updates for the tools to remain effective.

The OptiView WAN Analyzer will earn its keep on many networks: The details provided by its well-designed interface will allow for verification of policy effectiveness on the LAN side; dynamic seven-layer views provide intensive information on how your link is being utilized; and assistance in tracking down network trouble and troublemakers comes with the package.

The model I tested is a combination OC-3/OC-12 tester complete with remote interface that upgrades at no cost--therefore, future-proofing is built in, and if you spend a little more for multiuser console software, several analysts can use the tool simultaneously.Lee Badman is a network engineer at Syracuse University. Write to him at [email protected].

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