The case of the missing bandwidth

IBM’s Apparent Network Speed Analysis (ANSA) tool helped Vancouver’s police department solve a mystery the force couldn’t handle on its own.

In 1998, the department noticed that personnel trying to access files at one Vancouver police site from another police site in the city were getting slow response times, despite the fact that the police had a 10Mbps metropolitan service from BCTel linking the two sites. Obviously, there was some bandwidth missing.

Mike Marlay, the police department’s technical services supervisor, called in IBM to track down the lost megabits. Ken Chan, a certified IT specialist with IBM Global Services, assessed the department’s metropolitan link with ANSA and found it was running at only 1.5Mbps.

“The problem was there was a T-1 in between, even though at each end it was 10Mbps and the provider was selling it as a 10Mbps service,” Chan said.

ANSA had originally been created a year earlier to solve a similar problem at the Pacific regional office of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Fred Klassen, ANSA’s co-creator, said the tool was built to measure the fisheries department’s 10Mbps metropolitan link without taking the link down to test it.

ANSA is designed to find any bottleneck within a network right down to a network interface card.

“What we have now is what we’re calling the keys to the kingdom,” Klassen said. “We can look into people’s networks and say, ‘Your server can only run 6Mbps even though it’s on a 100Mbps segment.’ And we’ve actually come across situations like that.”

IBM is currently offering ANSA as a service rather than as a stand-alone product. Klassen said the reasoning behind this approach is ANSA is not simple to use.

“The problem with a product is it would spew out results and people wouldn’t understand right away what they meant.”

Thanks to ANSA, the mystery of Vancouver police’s missing bandwidth has a happy ending.

After the police presented BCTel with IBM’s ANSA results, the carrier made some changes to the metropolitan link. However, a subsequent ANSA test showed it was still running at approximately only 4Mbps. BCTel did some testing of its own to confirm the results, made some more configuration changes and got the network running at its maximum capacity.

Case closed.

— Michael Martin