Visual UpTime 5.2 gives real-time view

Service providers and enterprises looking for end-to-end WAN service management will find help with the latest release of Rockville, Md.-based Visual Networks’ Visual UpTime 5.2, and will be able to participate more in the operation of their networks, according to the vendor.

“The benefit obviously for the enterprise is that they get to be a participant in running their own network and understanding how their network is running,” explained Bobbi Murphy, vice-president at Visual Networks.

Additions to the product include Visual Service Advisor, new software that allows a service provider to offer real-time and historical views of how the network is performing, according to Murphy.

Service Advisor reports on availability, round-trip delay and data delivery ratio. As well, a carrier can make the report screens available to its customers via the Web.

Customers are able to see it “in a real-time manner as opposed to waiting for once a month to understand that their network was down for thirty minutes or fifteen minutes,” Murphy said, adding that customers can then “work in a partnership mode with the service provider to resolve the problem.”

A high speed version of the added Visual UpTime Analysis Service Element (ASE) will deliver performance information back to the Visual UpTime applications, and will enable service providers to extend WAN service management offerings, according to the vendor.

“And you can run this on a single T-3 or DS-3 line at high speed or you can actually run fractional T-1 lines as a subset of that,” said Murphy.

According to Chris Nicoll, the director of carrier and optical infrastructure analysis at Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis, the upside of the new release from an IT administrator’s point of view is that service level management capabilities can be expanded to new services.

“For example, they’ve always been able to instrument a 56Kbps line or a T-1 line, an E-1, but if they went into the multi-megabit services, you know nxT-1, nxE-1, they’d lose visibility,” Nicoll said. “Visual Networks is now extending their Visual UpTime service level management capability into the nxT-1 services, so they eliminate that hole in the picture.”

Another capability of the 5.2 is network to network interface (NNI) support. With frame relay networks in Canada, a user may be dealing with several carriers from all over the country — which may be problematic.

“One of the challenges has been how do you measure, if you will, end-to-end from the customer’s point of view, even though you have two or more carriers involved,” Murphy said. “And so this NNI capability gives us the ability to see at the demarcation points between two networks,” so the performance problem is visible.

Nicoll said this allows carriers to better isolate network related problems down to a specific network.

“Previously, it was either the customer side or the network side, and the network side could have been one to three different networks, and you couldn’t isolate the performance problem to a specific network,” he said. “You knew it occurred somewhere along the lines,” but with Visual Networks’ NNI capability you can now isolate that, which should speed up troubleshooting of carrier related performance problems, Nicoll explained.

The 5.2 is Visual Networks’ response to competitors as well as customer needs, according to Nicoll. And while he said Current Analysis is “taking a very positive stance” on the company’s latest release, there are a few things more Nicoll would like to see.

“The thing that is still missing for me is Visual Networks doesn’t provide an easy way to look at all the service level management information that’s on the screen and tell whether or not you’re violating an SLA,” he said.

He mentioned the same issue in a December report, where Nicoll stated: “Visual has brought together all of the SLA components for a PVC on one screen, but there is still no easy way for a user to know at a glance what the SLA parameter is for an element in question (such as delay or delivery success). There is no easy way to look at this screen and instantly know if an SLA is being violated.”

According to Murphy, “you could set it (5.2) to tell you if any SLAs have been violated – that’s part of the capability. You can set thresholds and then it will tell you whether or not you’re exceeding those thresholds.”

First customer shipments of Visual UpTime 5.2 began late this month and other products will be available later in the quarter. The ASE is listed at US$19,995, and other 5.2 features will be available for free to Visual UpTime’s maintenance program subscribers.

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