NetScout Systems, Inc., headquartered in Westford, Massachusetts has extensive experience in network performance monitoring and analysis, dating back to its founding in 1984. The firm was one of the earliest innovators in remote monitoring (RMON) technologies, developing probes for a number of LAN and WAN technologies, including Fast Ethernet, FDDI, T3 and ATM.
In early 2000, the company introduced the first end-to-end performance management system for e-business, the nGenius Performance Management System, and also extended its technology into application monitoring, including the first real-time monitoring solution providing simultaneous visibility into converged voice, video and data traffic. In 2002, the company was the first to integrate real-time monitoring, troubleshooting, protocol analysis and historical reporting tasks and data within a single tool that managed performance of all standard, proprietary, web and voice applications. In 2007, the company doubled its business by acquiring Network General, and its well known Sniffer, Infinistream and Network Intelligence product lines, considered by many to be the industry standard for protocol analysis. By adding the analysis power of the Sniffer technologies to the real-time monitoring of the nGenius, NetScout has positioned itself as a company that can provide both network analysis and application performance solutions. NetScout (NASDAQ: NTCT) has over 800 employees and offices around the globe, serving the Global 5000 enterprise community as well as government agencies and telecommunications service providers.
The NetScout Product Line
NetScout Systems’ product line is divided into two main areas: Instrumentation, with solutions that monitor and record the packet/flow data from strategic locations providing network visibility; and Analysis, which includes software products for intelligent management, analysis and reporting of network and application performance across complex networks.
The flagship analysis solution is the Sniffer Global, which supports both wired and wireless enterprise network links including 10/100/1000 Ethernet and 802.11 a/b/g/n networks. The Sniffer Global system runs under Windows XP or Vista, and is typically loaded onto a high-end laptop that can be easily attached to a network location where enhanced network analysis and management functions are required. Evolved from the industry-leading Sniffer Portable and incorporating Sniffer Expert analysis capabilities and advanced protocol decodes, this system is able to help users pinpoint and analyze the toughest performance problems with great deployment flexibility. The system is especially suited to wireless environments, as it integrates with the Cisco Systems 3000 Series Mobility Services Engine. This unique combination allows the net manager to address the challenge of effectively troubleshooting performance issues in a wireless network, in which components and problems are constantly in motion and difficult to pinpoint quickly without multiple analyzers and technicians involved.
Sniffer Global was developed taking into account that tools implemented in today’s network environment need to adhere to certain security and compliance policies to ensure that critical corporate data is protected. The system uses a central management and administration server which controls deployment and distribution of the product, as well as controls upgrade activities and license management. The product provides user authentication and controlled access to application functionality such as capture access, capture slice sizing and other features on a per user basis. In addition, it includes activity and audit log capabilities, providing a strong tool for monitoring and controlling usage. It also features industry-leading packet-level expert analysis and decodes, including those for a wide array of databases, VoIP, and mobile technologies. Available in multi-user and enterprise-wide licenses, these server-based controls safeguard internal corporate compliance and governance requirements by restricting use to authorized staff only and providing visibility into users of the technology, when they are using it and how it is being used.
Another analysis product is the nGenius system, which uses data from strategically deployed probes and collectors to provide visibility into complex networks for application monitoring, packet/flow analysis and troubleshooting, response time analysis, capacity planning and convergence management of voice, video and data traffic. Through the combination of Sniffer and nGenius technologies, NetScout enables customers to maximize the performance and efficiency of applications and content delivered across globally distributed networks.
The nGenius system is based upon distributed monitoring devices, called the Intelligent Data Sources, which collect key network metrics. The data sources include the nGenius InfiniStream Appliances, deep packet capture appliance that are strategically placed throughout the network to collect packet-flow statistics; the nGenius Probes which are distributed monitoring devices that collect key performance metrics; the nGenius Virtual Agent, a software-based intelligent data source designed to extend the reach of network management inside virtual computing environments; and the nGenius Collector, which delivers NetFlow and IP Service Level Agreement (SLA)-based data to the system. These data sources are placed at strategic aggregation points within the network, to collect key performance metrics, support the monitoring of load-balancing or redundant links, and provide application recognition by tracking complex, Web-based and peer-to-peer applications.
The nGenius analysis and reporting solution includes four modules. The Performance Manager is a comprehensive solution for application and network performance management, including service and policy validation, plus planning and optimization tools. The K2 Service Delivery Manager leverages application-level data from the Performance Manager to provide a quick status of the health of critical business services, including early warnings of changes in application and network conditions. The Performance Manager for Flows analyzes and maps the NetFlow data and IP SLA results that are gathered from the nGenius Collectors and displays that information on real-time screens and historical reports, including VoIP quality metrics and system utilization statistics. The Analytics for Flows system automatically records information from the nGenius Collectors, looking for utilization anomalies, providing managers with an early warning of potential system or application issues.
Further details on the NetScout network management solutions can be found at http://netscout.com/. Our next tutorial will continue our examination of vendors’ network management architectures.
Copyright Acknowledgement: ©2009 DigiNet Corporation, All Rights Reserved
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet Corporation, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.