Two Approaches to VoIP Quality Monitoring

This week brought new solutions from Ipswitch and Tektronix—scaled from small business to international service providers.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Jun 27, 2008
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Ipswitch, Inc.'s WhatsUp Gold is a mature, well-established network performance and security monitoring application that comes in three versions: Premium, for small and mid-size businesses, Distributed, for larger, multi-site enterprises, and MSP, for service providers.

This week, the Lexington, Mass.-based company released a new plug-in module WhatsUp Gold VoIP Monitor, designed specifically to extend WhatsUp Gold with the capability to monitor and report on the capacity of an IP network to support and maintain acceptable performance for VoIP call quality.

Active monitors also provide values for MOS, and can trigger an alert if problems reduce the MOS value below a user-configured threshold.


VoIP Monitor Workspace View
VoIP Monitor Workspace View
Click to see larger image

The VoIP Monitor analyzes data generated by Cisco IP SLA- (service-level agreement) enabled devices to track parameters essential to maintaining quality on VoIP calls: jitter, packet loss, latency, and other calculated performance values.

A graphical user interface, the VoIP Monitor Workspace View (see figure) provides a unified view of VoIP performance metrics. It is fully integrated with the management and reporting infrastructure of WhatsUp Gold, letting users drill down into the underlying functionality for troubleshooting.

Part of the VoIP Monitor module is a Configuration Wizard that scans the WhatsUp Gold database for IP SLA-enabled devices and lets the administrator select an IP SLA source for gathering VoIP round-trip time data. The Wizard also steps the admin through the setup procedure for performance monitors, active monitors and workspace views for the selected IP SLA devices.

Manufacturer's suggested retail price for VoIP Monitor is $995. Under a special offer that runs until August 1, 2008, anyone purchasing any version of WhatsUp Gold v. 12 will receive the VoIP Monitor for free.

Tektronix's Zoey

A very different animal is Zoey, a truly novel approach to VoIP quality testing from Richardson, Texas-based Tektronix Communications. (See our Healthy VoIP Nets article on parent company, Tektronix, Inc.'s network management product line.)

Zoey is an interactive voice response (IVR) –driven test system designed for deployment by service providers (think Vonage and its ilk) for troubleshooting customer self-installs—or to test system quality at any time.

By embedding Zoey as a customer care service, VoIP and other phone service providers can both cut down on customer calls following self-service installations and improve Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) and, presumably, customer satisfaction.

Zoey guides phone users through a series of tests designed for common line problems such as caller ID, echo, noise, voice quality, and more. Once line quality issues are measured, the user is given a verbal report at the end of the test and details of the test results can be retrieved from a back-end customer care system (if provisioned). If Zoey determines that the voice service is faulty, the user is automatically transferred to a customer care agent to address the issue.

"Zoey provides end-to-end visibility in mixed circuit and packet environments and is an ideal tool that will support end-users and reduce the amount of time spent on the line with customer call centers," commented Tektronix Communications vice president and general manager, Mark Driedger.

In addition to functioning as a customer satisfaction tool, Zoey can be used by field technicians to test service deployments. It works in conjunction with other Tektronix testing systems and procedures, such as Loopback and responder testing using intelligent devices such as PowerProbe 30, according to the company.

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