Apparent Networks, headquartered in Wellesley Hills, Mass., develops and
markets software designed to give enterprises and managed service providers a
radically different and more effective way to assess the performance of their
Founded in 2000, Apparent Networks is a privately held firm backed by
top-tier venture investors, including Bain Capital Ventures and JMI
The Company’s software gives network management teams and their
line-of-business constituents the ability to track the performance and service
quality that their networks are delivering—not just network
Apparent Networks presently employs about 50 people, maintains a large
development center in Vancouver, B.C., and has several sales and service
locations throughout North America.
Its software solutions have been successfully deployed by large enterprises,
managed service providers, and tier-one technology vendors including 3Com,
Boeing, Electronic Arts, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Network Appliance,
Nortel, Polycom, Siemens, Symantec, and Toshiba.
Apparent Networks claims that its flagship software offering,
AppCritical, provides a radically different basis for assessing,
measuring, and diagnosing converged networks. Unlike traditional network
management tools that look in detail at individual devices, AppCritical utilizes
a patent-protected expert technology for network behavior, providing
network diagnostic, assessment, measurement, and monitoring functionality that
the company feels is markedly superior to that provided by the traditional
network management products.
This system gives users complete visibility into their network
infrastructures, and analyzes the entire end-to-end network path used by an
application without any breaks or blind spots. This includes the ability to see
inside the service providers’ networks to determine exactly how that network is
performing and whether or not it is affecting the application traffic and end
The AppCritical product includes several distinguishing features.
First, it provides Real-time, End-to-end Monitoring, continuously
monitoring the capacity and quality of thousands of network paths in real time,
including extending this monitoring and visibility through service providers’
networks to the end users.
Second, the system provides Active Path Assessment, which
automatically transmits small, precisely timed packets through network paths
using the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) or the User Datagram Protocol
(UDP). As these small, ‘synthetic’ packets traverse the network, their
timing is distorted by delays, restrictions, and limitations, all of which yield
distinctive markers carried back by the packets.
AppCritical analyzes these markers, creating a virtual image of the present
state of network paths, and determines whether or not they meet requirements of
Key network path measurements that the system captures and analyzes include:
host name and address; measured and reported Maximum Transmission Unit (MTU)
size; achievable bandwidth; best, average, and worst Round Trip Time (RTT);
propagation delay; packet jitter, packet loss, and packet reordering; Mean
Opinion Score (MOS); and utilization.
Third, its Diagnostics use patented algorithms and expert-system
analytics to pinpoint the exact cause and location of any problems. Providing a
path-centric perspective, the system determines whether the problem is
network-related or application-related, and if it’s a network problem, exactly
what is causing it, where it is occurring, and what needs to be done to resolve
The primary network faults detected by AppCritical include: congestion, media
errors, collision domain violations, compromised Quality of Service (QoS), rate
limiting queues, MTU conflicts, and black hole and grey hole hops.
The AppCritical architecture consists of three main components.
Sequencers are small pieces of code that can run on Windows, UNIX, or
Linux environments, and are placed at strategic network locations (like data
centers), where they create test packets and use them to conduct network path
tests and collect real-time network performance data.
The Network Intelligence System manages the Sequencers and controls
all path testing; analyzes data collected from Sequencers with identification,
correlation, and remediation analysis engines; and presents the results to the
Operations Console, which stores all data and analyzes in a database.
Finally, that Operations Console presents the consolidated information about
path and network application performance in simple, intuitive and actionable
formats, using common language.
AppCritical also automatically generates detailed reports, including charts,
graphs, and summary views. These customizable reports may include a test summary
(see Figure 1), historical path service quality charts
(see Figure 2), and a current snapshot of current
network conditions (see Figure 3). These reports establish a common
ground from which teams can resolve pressing problems and collaborate more
effectively on strategic initiatives.
Further details on the Apparent Networks’ architecture and products can be
found at http://apparentnetworks.com. Our
next tutorial will continue our examination of vendors’ network management