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Category Archives: Application Performance

Why Customers Choose WildPackets

Customers come to us for a multitude of reasons. Some aren’t happy with their current network monitoring solutions; others are experiencing network glitches that they cannot solve; and some simply need a cohesive analysis solution. WildPackets offers a suite of products that bring customers to us from far and wide, many of whom need specific capabilities in their monitoring solution. Let’s take a look at just a few of the reasons WildPackets is the leading network analysis solution.

10G Analysis
WildPackets led the way in 10G analysis, being the first to introduce a network recorder to break the 10G barrier. When our TimeLine network recorder was introduced in 2010 it was the only network recorder to capture and store packet-level data, with no data loss whatsoever, at 11.7Gbps. Since then, WildPackets has continued to refine TimeLine, offering even more real-time statistics, increasing our overall data throughput, and adding support to capture directly from 40G network segments.

Network Forensics
Going hand-in-hand with network recording is network forensics. As you’re streaming packets to the network recorder perhaps you see a troubling trend in the real-time dashboard, or maybe a user enters a trouble ticket. Network forensics allows you to analyze a subset of your recorded data while the overall high-speed capture continues uninterrupted.

Often associated with security, network forensics goes well beyond security and also helps solve far more common issues on your network, like spikes in utilization, drops in VoIP call quality, and increased latency in both network and application performance. If a problem does occur, you no longer have to try to recreate the problem, which is typically the most time consuming task in any troubleshooting session. Instead, with TimeLine, you simply go back in time, find the problem on the dashboard, and solve it.

Remote Analysis
The days of using a laptop to perform portable analysis, especially on high-speed wired networks, are now extinct. Corporate networks are highly distributed, even for small to medium sized businesses. Even if your company operates from a single location, odds are you host some services remotely, and use some level of software-as-a-service (SaaS), making it difficult to always be where problems are occurring. WildPackets’ Omni Distributed Analysis Platform provides a wide range of options for remote network analysis, from “lightweight” software solutions like OmniPeek Remote Assistant and OmniEngine software probe, to high performance network recording appliances like TimeLine. With a WildPackets solution, network engineers can monitor and analyze highly distributed network architectures without ever leaving their desks.

Top-Down Approach to Network Monitoring
For an overall, top-down view of any network segment, customers find WildPackets flagship OmniPeek network analyzer most helpful, whether as a portable analyzer or as a console to any of our remote analysis solutions. OmniPeek provides complete visibility into your network – including Ethernet, Gigabit, 10G, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, and VoIP and video. OmniPeek provides visual context into the network so that even junior IT staff can drill down into performance problems and solve performance issues across multiple network segments. This ensures maximum network uptime and user satisfaction.

The Full Suite of Network Monitoring and Analysis Products
And for a complete view across your entire network, WildPackets offers WatchPoint network monitor. This solution builds on our suite of distributed analysis products and provides a comprehensive graphical interface of overall network performance, including top talkers, top applications, overall utilization, VoIP performance, and detailed reporting of detected network and application problems (Experts). WatchPoint also provides a direct link for detailed, packet-level analysis to determine the root cause of any issue.

What is your favorite WildPackets product? Feel free to leave us a comment and share your thoughts.

Best Practices for Application Performance Monitoring and Troubleshooting

Network professionals do not have the luxury of simply responding to network failures. When problems arise, regardless of their nature, the network gets blamed. And as every network engineer knows it’s typically not the network at fault; it’s usually the application.

As the expression goes, the best defense is a strong offense. That’s why it’s essential to continuously monitor both network and application performance so the root cause of “network” issues can be easily identified.

For this blog, we’ll discuss best practices for ensuring application performance, whether your applications are virtual or hosted in a third-party data center like software-as-a-service (SaaS) or cloud computing.

Staging Application Monitoring
Most applications today are no longer centralized in a single data center. Instead, they are widely distributed, whether it’s due to a distributed data architecture within an enterprise, or usage of SaaS or cloud-based computing.

As you did with centralized applications, you still need to monitor key metrics like latency (both network and transaction), number of turns, overall network bandwidth, and payload sizes, which are particularly handy for application-level troubleshooting. However, with a distributed architecture, this information is no longer available from a single monitoring point. Data for analysis must be collected from multiple points along the data path in the network to provide the best possible data for analysis. In order to get the full picture of your network and applications, you need to monitor all key network links and hops.

Data collection from multiple points, though essential, does make analysis more complicated since you need to know which capture points are the key points for the problem you are analyzing. Multi-segment analysis alleviates this complication. Multi-segment analysis is a post-capture method that automates the process of analyzing network data from multiple network segments and/or multi-tier applications. It compiles and correlates just the data you need in a single view so you can easily pinpoint where anomalies are occurring along the data path, from the client to the server and back.

The Virtual and Cloud Factor
Virtualization introduces new challenges both in monitoring the physical network, and application performance. Even with this complexity, the fundamental analysis techniques are still valid: a capture only has to be in the packet path between the client and the server to diagnose the problems, even if this path is virtual.

We just covered this topic in detail in our last blog post. Click here to read.

If you are working with fully hosted cloud-based applications, your flexibility for monitoring data on the Cloud side of the application is very limited, and most likely non-existent. The key here in terms of application performance is focusing on end user experience. If there are complaints about application performance, capture on a client machine and at the WAN ingress/egress point to see round-trip application performance as well as the performance of the specific client.

Reactive Analysis
If you are continually monitoring and assessing your network, you can quickly and easily spot issues before anyone complains. That said, most folks do not proactively monitor and instead wait for the complaint to happen – reactive analysis.

If this sounds like you, then the first step in discovering if it is a network or application problem is to turn to your favorite packet-based network analysis solution (we hope it is OmniPeek).

The next step is finding the best place to monitor the offending application. Remember, multiple analysis points along the path will make troubleshooting much easier with multi-segment analysis, but this may be impractical when in a reactive mode. It’s important to keep in mind where users are located, and whether it is a single user that is having problems or a broad range of users. If it is a single user, try isolating the network traffic for just that user to reduce the amount of data to be analyzed. If it is broad range, monitor closer to the application server and isolate your analysis to just the users of that application.

When the monitoring points are established, you can start collecting network data (packets). If you are sure that this is an isolated application issue, then filter as described above. But if you’re still not sure, widen up the data that you collect to make sure you’re not missing critical data.

If your network analysis system employs expert analysis, this will be an excellent guide for your problem search. Look at the specific types of expert events being logged and in what layers they are being reported. Problems arising in the application or server layer typically mean that the application is at fault. If the transport layer is implicated, then it may be your network.

Expert analysis may not always reveal the issue. In that case you need to go deeper and look into the overall packet bounce diagram for the network conversation in question. If the diagram indicates that user requests are followed by quick network acknowledgements (ACKs), but a delayed data response, then the problem is most probably with the application. Conversely, if the ACK is delayed or missing, then the network may be to blame.

Want to learn more about application troubleshooting? Let us know what you think we missed in this blog and what you would like us to cover next time for application performance monitoring. Also, if you already use our products, we have tons of videos on how to troubleshoot applications. Check out all our video tutorials on our YouTube channel.

Scale Your Network Visibility with WildPackets

Scalability is an issue that’s coming up more and more frequently as 10G and 40G networks grow in popularity. As networks grow in size, the ability of network analysis solutions to either handle the growing amount of data or to accommodate the growth is telling of its scalability.

Network growth results in more network analysis through increased analytical throughput, scope, data storage, and distributed analysis. As your network grows and you encounter these issues, there are ways to scale your visibility so that you’re not looking for a needle in a 10G haystack.

Architect for Visibility
As always, knowing your network is key. Know what traffic is important to your company. Is it mission critical business applications, like order entry, financials, and CRM? Or is it web-based traffic that’s driving your online retail business? Once you decide what, and how much, of this traffic requires ongoing monitoring and analysis, you’ll know where to look to specifically identify the traffic that you’ll want to capture. Building visibility into your network infrastructure can help both of these practices. Through strategic placement of analysis points, you’ll be able to get instant information to fix problems faster.

Visibility includes both summary level monitoring data and detailed network metrics, including visibility into network packet traffic and even specific packet decodes. Only a packet-based network analysis system, like the Omni Distributed Analysis Platform, provides the complete range of visibility required to monitor and troubleshoot today’s high-speed networks, keeping networks running smoothly and guaranteeing the very best end-user experience.

Backbone Visibility
Though often the fastest link in your infrastructure, the network backbone – the aggregation of all your distribution layer networks – can be an excellent point for monitoring network traffic and capturing network data for more detailed analysis. Depending on your overall network architecture, the network backbone may be a roll-up of just about all of your critical network traffic, especially if traffic is driven through a centralized network operations center (NOC), or if your company is a heavy user of cloud-based or other third party SaaS applications that drive network traffic through your WAN link. Using high speed network monitoring appliances on the network backbone can centralize your network monitoring and analysis, and save money by consolidating network analysis into a single appliance.
The aggregated traffic on the network backbone will typically be high speed, with more and more enterprises migrating to 10G backbones. Packet-based network analysis on the backbone means you’ll be interested in all of the packets, so you will likely need an appliance like WildPackets’ TimeLine network recorder, which captures at rates up to 12Gbps with zero packet loss. Timeline network recorder allows you to store all your data for forensic analysis while continuously capturing network traffic. And if you’re already migrating your backbone to 40G, you can simply add an aggregation tap and a few more TimeLine appliances for a complete 40G solution.

Adding Visibility to Virtual “Blind Spots”
Traditionally, north-south traffic was the most important in network monitoring. However, with the explosive growth virtualization, east-west traffic is becoming more and more important in enterprise networks, and poses a new challenge in network and application performance monitoring. East-west traffic is typically traffic moving within a virtual host or a distributed virtual system. Since much of this traffic resides solely within the virtual environment, and therefore never hits a physical network interface, traditional network monitoring and analysis that is done by tapping into the physical network does not capture this east-west traffic. For example, let’s say the order entry system and the inventory database reside on separate VMs within the same host or distributed system. Communications between the order entry application and the database are east-west traffic. Application performance issues between these systems are “hidden” within the VM. To add visibility, you can either install WildPackets OmniVirtual on one of the VMs to gain visibility into the entire host, or, in the case of larger, distributed virtual systems, the use of a virtual tap is recommended. Virtual taps are sold by many tap vendors, and they provide a physical link that traditional network monitoring appliances can access to expose east-west traffic within the virtual system.

For more information about how WildPackets can help scale your networks, check out our ondemand webcast.