Healthy VoIP Nets�Part XIV�Network Management Architectures: Network Instruments

Network Instruments, LLC, headquartered in Minnetonka, Minnesota, is a developer
of distributed and affordable network management, analysis, and troubleshooting
solutions.

In 1994 they developed the Observer, the first Windows-based protocol
analyzer, and also the first product to troubleshoot switched environments.
Since that time the Observer has grown into an entire family of network management,
analysis, and troubleshooting solutions, that include capabilities for protocol
and packet-level analysis, network design, optimization and mapping tools, and
SNMP-based enterprise management, including embedded agents and/or probes.

All of the Network Instruments products are designed utilizing its Distributed
Network Analysis (NI-DNA) architecture, meaning that all solutions are based
on a single code set. The architecture includes two key components: a probe
which collects data regarding a local or remote network’s operation, and a console,
which displays the data.

Remote probes can be installed on many types of networks, including 10/100/1000
Ethernets, WANs and wireless networks, with the control and monitoring of the
probes allowed from any location, whether local or remote. Since the probe and
console are derived from the same code, they work together as a seamless, integrated
solution. This unified code set also allows an easier transition to additional
topologies, as minimal training is required as the network grows or evolves.

Observer console interface
Figure 1 – Click to see full-size image

The console part of the system, is called the Observer. It provides network,
application, and in-depth VoIP performance analysis, with call quality scoring
and VoIP metrics on a per-call or aggregate level. It can also reconstruct calls
for IT staff to listen to and review.

One of the big advantages of Observer is its ability to display all applications
running on the network alongside VoIP traffic, since other applications can
affect VoIP quality. Observer handles real-time performance issues with over
70 VoIP-specific metrics, plus over 50 event-based and threshold-based VoIP
Experts. The system provides in-depth problem identification and resolution,
as well as alerts to VoIP quality issues—including alarms for unacceptable
jitter level, lost packets, or alterations in the QoS stream (see Figure 1).

The console is available in three versions.

The Observer Standard can capture, view, and decode over 590
different protocols of network traffic in real time, analyze the network traffic
to diagnose critical problems, and collect long-term trending statistics for
proactive management operations.

The Observer Expert can also track the network applications, and includes
an extended level of VoIP analysis, conversation tracking, and performance
predictions. For VoIP applications, it can monitor over 70 call quality metrics.

The Observer Suite provides all of the functionality of the Observer
Standard and Observer Expert, plus SNMP device management, and remote monitoring
(RMON) management.

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