Building a large scale business network is not as simple as it once was. It used to be that all IT managers needed for a network was rack-mounted servers that handled any and all calls from the Web or in your office. Given the recent proliferation of virtualized networks, cloud hosted applications and global WANs; IT monitoring is getting complex.
NetScout is not the only dog in this race. According to Derek Silva, research analyst at London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Inc., there are a few competitive APM solutions on the market already. The difference is, said Silva, NetScout is the most robust and tuned towards all parts of the network.
Says Silva, “I don’t know of anyone else that’s delivering both an NMS (network monitoring system) and an APM solution, all bundled together from a single view.”
The difference, according to Silva, it appears, between NetScout and, say, Aternity or ExtraHop, is the focus on the full spectrum of user experience.
Steve Shalita, vice-president of marketing for NetScout, agreed. Shalita says “the notion of user experience is really relevant and (directly) related to the performance, the availability, the quality of the services, the applications and the network that are running it.”
And that is the emphasis NetScout feels it has brought to the table with its nGenius Service Delivery Manager and even more so with the recent announcement of their nGenius Enterprise Intelligence module. “Our belief is, and what we’re focused on, is looking at both—network and application perspectives—to get to the true user experiences,” says Shalita.
Instead of having a definite split between the tools, roles and responsibilities of the security team, network team, application team and Web team, nGenius Enterprise Intelligence should allow IT departments to provide real-time data that is useful to all of them. Instead of a problem festering and being bumped back and forth because of the skill gap between different IT professionals, Shalita says nGenius Enterprise Intelligence could possibly cut down the time it takes to identify and fix problems by catching it early.
Silva thinks this kind of thinking is imperative to staying up to speed. For companies that have diversified networks, getting “a single view, end to end, to help you figure out what’s going on and what to fix, that would be terrific.”
But that’s not the only issue at play. Silva thinks that the ideal is to have a NMS that can embed IP packets and report back in real-time, not only at the speed of the network, but without putting any undue stress on your network in doing so.
Shalita says this was taken into consideration with the creation of nGenius Enterprise Intelligence. Instead of being an active piece of software, or hardware, it’s a passive one. He said that, while it’s important to have real-time monitoring in all parts of the network, there cannot have that monitoring become a part of the problem.
In general, it’s applications that end up putting the strain on your network. “Applications are not developed to be network friendly,” Shalita says. Developers rarely think, “What can I do to make this really network-friendly and polite. It’s not how it works.”
Before it is widely implemented and reported on, as nGenius Enterprise Intelligence is currently in the user-testing phase of development, it’s hard to know exactly how fast a passive software solution can be.
Silva, for instance, sees that as the one lingering question concerning the success of NetScout’s latest effort. Says Silva, “What we don’t know is how quickly the ASI (adaptive session intelligence) technology can really analyze data at real-time”.
It grounds an otherwise untested claim from NetScout. With businesses investing in networks that can pass data at up to 10 gigabit speeds, can a passive software solution really integrate itself into your network and keep up?
According to Silva, it can, at least theoretically. There are other existing passive monitoring solutions that are already running at 10 gigabit speeds, but maybe not exactly in the same way NetScout proposes. Silva says it may become a matter of “how powerful of a virtual server or dedicated server would I need to put NetScout’s software on in order to make sure it keeps up with the rest of my network?”
This is in direct contrast to what Shalita described as NetScout’s mission of having very deep-diving deployable, passive monitoring solutions, while keeping hardware strain low. And until the product officially launches, that particular metric will remain to be seen.
Now, if one were an existing NetScout customer, according to Shalita, there is no guesswork. nGenius Enterprise Intelligence is an existing module within the nGenius Service Assurance Solution that just needs a license to unlock. This means that from purchase, to delivery, to runtime, the setup could be a scant few hours.
For a new customer, however, between installing software to your existing switches or a piece of hardware loaded with their software, the implementation would likely take a period of thirty days to complete.