NetQoS VoIP Monitor: Network-Based Monitoring Solution

At VoiceCon
in San Francisco last week, network performance management company NetQoS
introduced its new NetQoS
VoIP Monitor
network-based monitoring solution.

Founded in 1999, NetQoS primary serves larger companies and MSPs
with six network monitoring products tied to a single reporting
. The products range in granularity from the SuperAgent
end-to-end performance monitor to the GigaStor
packet analysis solution.

Company vice president of product management Mike Ellis says the merging of
those data sources into a single interface is really what helps people solve
problems. “Most of the power of our products comes by combining a lot of the
different data into a single solution, so that you can look at your traffic
data for an interface on a link, and also, right next to it, look at the CPU
utilization for that router, and also have the end-to-end response time for
users that are using that link, all on the same page,” he says.

NetQoS senior product manager Jim McQuaid notes that while the new VoIP Monitor
product can be deployed on its own, it works best as part of a larger suite.
“It doesn’t require any of the other products—it’s a standalone solution—but
at the end of the day, you’re going to need tools similar to our other products
to drill down into the real nitty-gritty issues in the network,” he says.

The first release of VoIP Monitor is targeted specifically at Cisco IP PBX
systems running CallManager
4.2 or later. The VoIP Monitor interface (see screenshot) priorities
problem areas (marked with yellow) and allows a user to drill down by clicking
on an identified issue “until you get down to the end resolution where you’ve
identified it,” McQuaid says. “You can go all the way down to individual call
legs if necessary.”


The NetQoS VoIP Monitor interface
The NetQoS VoIP Monitor interface
(Click image to see full-size)

The idea, McQuaid says, is to look at performance, not just simple availability.
“Going by degradation, or going by where the problems are, really makes a lot
of sense in our world,” he says.

For troubleshooting a specific issue, the VoIP Monitor’s Call Watch feature
allows a user to keep an eye on a single phone or location and monitor specific
data like time to dial tone, post dial delay and MOS.
“You can set up a Call Watch, and then whenever there is a call to or from that
phone, we will give you 15-second granularity of the call quality and all the
underlying metrics that go with that,” McQuaid says.

The point, McQuaid says, is that it’s the simple things like time to dial tone
that can really make a difference in the user experience. “It shouldn’t be exciting,
but in some voice over IP deployments, it is an exciting metric—if it takes
more than a few seconds, people start to look at the phone funny and hang up
and try it again,” he says. “So time to dial tone, and post dial delay for the
completion of the call, are critical.”

All of NetQoS’ products are appliance-based, and the VoIP Monitor is no different—it
consists of a central Management Console appliance, which contains the database
and the Web interface, as well as up to 10 VoIP Collector appliances per Management
Console. “The Collector sits on a SPAN port colocated with a CallManager instance—that
allows us to see all the signaling flows to and from the CallManager, the phones,
and the gateways,” McQuaid says.

It’s easy and non-intrusive, McQuaid says, for the VoIP Collector to get comprehensive
information about call quality. “We are using the information that the Cisco
phone sends to the CallManager, that ends up in the CallManager database, but
since we’re already eavesdropping on the flows, we basically take it off the
wire—we don’t need to make constant SQL queries to Call Manager,” he says.
“We simply use the same information.”

And because the product is delivered in a pre-configured appliance, McQuaid
says, the setup process is extremely simple. “We found, even in the beta where
the unit’s brand new to both our field people and customers, 30 minutes was
a typical deployment time,” he says.

Looking forward, McQuaid says, managing performance is becoming a key concern
for all aspects of IT. “Simple availability, is it up or down, is important,
but it’s not very interesting any more, and it doesn’t really answer the questions
people are asking,” he says. “If an e-mail takes a few seconds, you may be waiting
on it, but if you can’t get dial tone in under eight seconds, you’ll probably
never wait long enough.”

NetQoS VoIP Monitor is available now, with pricing starting at $29,500.

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