Ready for VoIP: Network Management Architectures: Netscout Systems

NetScout Systems, Inc., founded in 1984 and headquartered in Westford, Massachusetts, has an extensive history in network performance monitoring and analysis. 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.

Early in 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.

Netscout forensics dashboard 1
Figure 1 – Netscout Forensics Dashboard 1

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 posted FY2007 revenues of $102.5M

 Netscout Forensics Dashboard 2
Figure 2 – Netscout Forensics Dashboard 2

Netscout Systems’ product line is divided into two main areas: Analysis, which includes software solutions for intelligent management, analysis, and reporting of network and application performance across complex networks; and Instrumentation, with devices that monitor and record the packet/flow data from strategic locations, providing network visibility.

One of the analysis products is the nGenius Performance Manager, 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.

Another analysis The nGenius probes deliver the needed detailed information to the Performance Manager, providing a clear picture of network operation. Located at strategic aggregation points within the network, the probes collect key performance metrics, support the monitoring of load-balancing or redundant links, and provide application recognition by tracking complex we-based and peer-to-peer applications.

The VoIP Intelligence product offering allows network managers to achieve higher telephony and video service quality by analyzing VoIP-packet–based call control and multimedia transmissions. I can monitor and analyze the inherent characteristics of IP networks, including latency, jitter, and packet loss.

This offering is coupled with the Sniffer Infinistream, which provides continuous long-term capture, giving users access to the data for an entire transaction or series of transactions. Once the data is captured, users can drill down to the area of interest and conduct post-capture analysis using the Sniffer protocol decodes. The Infinistream is available with up to 15 terabytes of network storage, and can support LAN connections up to 10Gb Ethernet, plus WAN connections up to OC-3 ATM rates.

 Netscout Intelligence Console
Figure 3 – Netscout Intelligence Console

VoIP Intelligence is able to rapidly identify individual VoIP calls, video conferences, and overall service usage, and then display key performance information, including call volumes and impairments. The system also includes an integrated replay and time series chart, enabling the network management to both “hear and see” VoIP impairments. It can identify the behavior of other applications and the overall network at the same time.

The VoIP Intelligence system also deploys extensive graphics display capabilities, and can provide a single view to monitor VoIP systems and their interaction with other services on the network (see Figure 1); monitor device performance metrics with drill-down analysis on performance threshold violations (see Figure 2); analyze VoIP-based call control and multimedia transmissions (see Figure 3); and integrate a time series chart with the call details, thus providing a further view into voice and video impairments (see Figure 4).

 Completed Calls log

Figure 4 – Netscout Completed Calls log

Since InfiniStream stores all the packets, it is easy to go back in time to see exactly what took place during a VoIP conversation. Each call is individually tracked with associated metrics. This sets the net manager observe details such as call duration, calling and called parties, packet and byte counts, associated jitter, and which codecs were used for that conversation. Calls can even be replayed to actually “hear” the quality of the conversation.

However, since VoIP conversations typically run over a converged network with other media such as data or video simultaneously in use, the solution lets the user see all other applications that may affect call quality. It can be used in reverse as well, to determine when high VoIP call volumes negatively affect other, business-critical applications.

Further details on the Netscout architecture and products can be found at Our next tutorial will continue our examination of vendors’ network management architectures.

Author’s Biography
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

Article courtesy of Enterprise VoIP Planet, ©2008 DigiNet Corporation, All Rights Reserved

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