Western saves time with network analysis tool

Looking to minimize the amount of time spent scrutinizing data in its network management operations, The University of Western Ontario recently selected NetAlly, a new network testing software product from Omegon Ltd.

“NetAlly is typically used by the people who are responsible for operations management of the network,” said Tony vanKessel, regional manager for Lebanon, N.J.-based Omegon. “[Network administrators] would run our software and would be able to detect a problem before their client (did). The objective is that the end user never know that there was a problem.”

Michael Bauer, UWO’s vice-president of information technology, said the London, Ont.-based university selected NetAlly because it had the ability to do things the university didn’t have the tools to do before.

“We do have networking tools in place, but they tend to be acting in the sense that they generate data,” Bauer said. “They are very useful if you have a real failure. Apart from that, you end up having to look at a lot of data in order to determine how the network is behaving.”

Bauer said the university has neither the time nor the staff to go through data on a regular basis.

He said NetAlly will allow the university to put agents out to run tests periodically.

“What it allows us to do is, within certain expected parameters, to have ongoing testing so we don’t have to wait to see if in fact there are problems. We can put things out there, run periodic tests, determine whether we are getting close to a potential problem and try to address those up front,” Bauer said.

According to Omegon, NetAlly is based on an active testing scheme and can provide the continuous operation of network applications protocols and components, validate end-to-end real-time application QoS and response time. It can also proactively alert and conduct a real-time drill-down into potential problems before it affects the users’ experience.

“We actually control the test and the parameters of the test,” vanKessel said. “We can measure a variety of performance items and we do that real-time, on the network, basically between just about any two points on the network, which is a bit of a radical concept. Traffic agents are placed in the network and are actually told what test to run from the test directory. We add visibility right into the network. There is more immediacy and greater granularity as to what is happening inside the network.”

Bauer anticipates that NetAlly will save UWO from spending hours trying to track down problems.

“My guess is that if I can have one person who can spend half an hour either deciding what the problem is or at least eliminating possibilities, I can save four other people that half an hour. I’m coming out ahead every time,” he said.

He also noted “I think what attracted us to it was a couple of things: certainly the ongoing ability to have a set of predefined tests that we could customize to our environment, plus the ability to decide where we wanted to put agents out there. There are solutions, there are products that do similar, but not identical things. A lot of these tend to rely on specific hardware, which for us, gets very expensive.”

According to vanKessel, many products on the market replicate the functions of NetAlly, but generally require training time. Bauer noted that the initial installation of NetAlly took less than an hour.

“Within the next hour we were actually using it and actually diagnosed a problem,” Bauer said.

NetAlly, vanKessel said, is more complimentary than competitive with the majority of products available.

“(However), no one is really able to do what we consider the core elements: the active testing and the amount of control that we have over it.”

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