Santa Clara, Calif.-based PathSolutions has been around for some years, but came to the attention of Enterprise VoIPplanet only recently, in connection with the impending release of version 4.0 of its Network Monitor and VoIP Monitor software packages, announced yesterday.
This is surprising, given the breadth of this publication’s network management coverage—and since PathSolution’s customers include a lot of very substantial enterprises, including Dow Chemical, Alcoa, Tommy Bahama, and Marvell Semiconductor, for which PathSolutions’ software is currently monitoring 100,000 network nodes, worldwide.
We had an opportunity to talk with PathSolutions’ founder and CTO, Tim Titus, in a pre-announcement briefing—and to get a brief demo of the product in action.
The germ of the idea that was to blossom into PathSolutions Network Monitor came to Titus—an experienced network engineer—on a visit to the auto dealership to get his car serviced. Looking around the shop he realized there wasn’t a single senior-level mechanic anywhere on the premises.
“You get a junior level guy,” Titus explained. “He goes to the shelf and gets a box, plugs that box into the car and pushes the button. The box says “replace sparkplug number 2.” The guy replaces the sparkplug, the engine purrs and everyone is happy. I figured that needs to be done in the network monitoring arena.”
Unlike a built-from-scratch network monitoring system, which can take months to get up and running, PathSolutions’ software deploys in 10 to 15 minutes. Moreover, it is a very compact package (6MB) with a small footprint that will run on just about any PC. ” We can install on a Windows XP box or a Windows 2000 server,” Titus explained.
Once up and running, the software commences to scan the network, interrogating all the routers, servers, and switches—down to each individual switching interface—compiling an inventory and recording details such as OS versions, which devices are “talking” SNMP, and so on.
|PathSolutions VoIP Monitor interface|
With the inventory in place the software begins continuously monitoring the health and performance of every link on every device on the network. That constitutes “very broad coverage,” according to Titus.
” But we’re also doing deep coverage,” Titus told Enterprise VoIPplanet. “We’re going a lot deeper into SNMP, into collecting the error counters off the switches and routers. Within 10 to 15 minutes of installing, we’re going to have the entire network monitored—every port, every interface—and we’re going to have all these error counters collected. With that amount of visibility, the minute t a problem happens on that network, you’re going to know when that problem happened, where that problem happened, and why it’s occurring.”
All well and good for general network health. What about voice? “Once we’d built this very powerful easy to use monitor for the network—we thought there’s a lot we can do in the VoIP world, too,” Titus said.
PathSolutions’ basic tool for rooting out VoIP problems is a software feature they’ve dubbed a “call-path mapper,” which visually shows you the health of every link in a VoIP call. There’s a list of every device involved in the call path, and the engineer can drill down on any given device and get copious, statistics-based details about performance, and any anomalies that may be occurring—making it quick and easy to pinpoint the root cause of any problems.
“If you’re consistently getting bad calls on the lobby phone,” Titus said, by way of example, “you’ll quickly be able to learn that it’s connected to a switch port that’s discarding 5 percent of the packets. And you can drill down into that switch and see what’s the problem.”