Tool keeps UpTime on the edge

After focusing on the service boundary for Frame Relay and ATM, Visual Networks Inc. is adding private network-based IP capabilities to its flagship WAN management solution.

Featuring enhanced application monitoring, Visual UpTime 7.1 is designed to help enterprises mange their networks as they transition to higher speeds, classes of services and add new bandwidth-intensive applications, said Bob Norberg, the company’s Rockville, Md.-based director of product management.

Using a HSSI Analysis Service Element (ASE) designed to monitor IP traffic flows ranging up to 45Mbps, UpTime is able to monitor service boundary portions at up to DS3 speeds, said Norberg. In addition to the 50 different legacy and IP-based protocols that UpTime already tracks over the WAN, he said Version 7.1 is adding voice-type protocols such as H323 and RTP; database protocols like Microsoft SQL server and Oracle; and streaming media like Real Audio and Windows Media Player.

“Adding more speeds and feeds gives [managers] a close measurement of the voice-over-IP traffic per user and helps determine the effect of putting other applications on the same connection,” Norberg said.

Paul Bugala, senior analyst with IDC in Framingham, Mass., said that the WAN link is the most obvious source of networking expense for the enterprise, which makes optimizing WAN access services very important. Similarly, he added, service providers are also trying to make the most of their existing infrastructure as they prepare for the rollout of IP-based and Layer 3-type services.

“One of the key things that Visual is helping their customers do is offer IP-enabled Frame Relay services which are a combination of the stability and accountability that customers expect from frame relay at that layer, with the dynamic capabilities of IP. Then this is sort of a transitional step into pure IP for business network services,” Bugala said.

Norberg said that the key factor about UpTime is its focus on the boundary where the service provider is handing off wide area service to an enterprise. As an operational service level tool that provides detailed troubleshooting and service level validation tools specific to this hand-off, he said UpTime works well in conjunction with internal tools that manage faults, or perform executive level reporting.

With its combination of hardware and software, Visual competes with management products from NetScout Systems Inc. and also Concord Communications Inc., but “the great equalizer here has become service level agreements and the ability to extract network data into some business context,” Bugala said.

“While collecting network data is the forte of a lot of hardware-based products, what really differentiates Visual is the ability to take that data and to make it make sense in a business context and report that information both to folks working at the network operations centre and also to people in the corner offices,” he added.

UpTime 7.1 is available this fall for US$24,995. For users who already have a Visual HSSI ASE for Frame Relay, the IP software load costs US$4,995. The company is on the Web at