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Tag Archives: network baselining

3 Tips to Ensure Video Quality on Your Network

As we discussed in last week’s blog, video is slowly encroaching upon both home and enterprise networks. In a recent Cisco report, all forms of video will be approximately 90% of the global consumer Internet traffic in 2015. We predict that more than 50% of enterprise network traffic will be video by 2015.

Video data types are unpredictable; require a lot of bandwidth; are sensitive to latency, jitter, and packet loss; and demand the highest QoS delivery. As video becomes more pervasive on your enterprise network you’ll need the right tools and approach to manage this demanding data type. Here are our top tips for preparing for video and monitoring video usage and quality.

Determine Overall Video Usage
One of the first things you need to account for is how much video is already being used on your network. The best way to determine this is by using packet-based network analysis systems capable of analyzing networks for all types of traffic simultaneously. With such a system, you will easily be able to see the throughput associated with data versus that associated with video (and audio for that matter) and to determine if the ratio is what you were expecting.

Armed with that data, you want to go one level deeper and review the packet loss, media quality, and number of video sessions/VoIP calls to determine 1) if video may be underperforming on your network or 2) how much video is affecting the performance of other mission critical applications.

Identify Unauthorized Video Traffic
Whether someone outside your company is pilfering your Wi-Fi to access YouTube or someone inside your company is spending too much time watching the World Cup, these three approaches can help you determine who is inappropriately using video and bogging down your network.

First approach: Look at your top nodes and protocols and see what they’re doing. If you have nodes that are exceeding your typical baselines check these first by simply expanding the node to see which protocols are in use. (We’ve covered baselining before! For a refresher, check out Tim McCreery’s Getting Network Baseline Right article (PDF) or Jim Thor’s Baseline Product Tips and Tricks.) RTP? You have a possible culprit. HTTP? Don’t stop there. You have all the packets so dig in bit deeper to see where the user is going. YouTube? It’s probably not work related.

Second approach: Check your overall network utilization and zoom in on spikes in traffic, which are often indications of video downloads. Zooming in on a spike will identify not only the user, but also from the protocols in use and the servers they are communicating with. You might find that someone is simply using the telepresence program you’ve installed.

Third Approach: Create filters and alarms. If you build custom filters for RTP (Real Time Protocol) and Dynamic RTP you can easily see the activity happening on your network that relates strictly to video and voice. You can also create address filters, like for YouTube, to determine if users are abusing certain sites and if this having a negative effect on your network.

Monitor High-Level Video Delivery
It may be that it’s quality, and not abuse, that’s of importance to you, especially when telepresence is being used. The best way to analyze for success is to look into each individual media stream, breaking it down into its primary audio and video components, and glance at your metrics. This approach allows you to determine the quality of service on each segment of video from picture to sound quality. You can continue to dive deeper into the packet by packet IP conversation, identifying exactly where problems such as quality of service is not being applied to certain packets or jitter exceeds typical guidelines for video. With this information, you have everything you need to find and fix any problems.

Designing your network to meet the influx of video on your network, as well as instilling a proper monitoring system for this sensitive data, will ensure that your network continues to stay stable and colleagues continue to stay happy while watching their favorite YouTube video or using Skype for conference calls.

Monitoring Your Cloudy Network

With more businesses relying on the cloud for their IT infrastructure (or to deliver products to their customers), a troubling misconception has emerged. Many organizations relying on a cloud environment believe monitoring the network is less important in maintaining a functional system because applications and problems are being outsourced.

This line of thinking is in error. In fact, network analysis is very important in cloud computing. While moving to the cloud will certainly alter how you perform network analysis, a solid network is still needed to handle communication between users and applications.

The major change in a cloud environment is that the focus of network management shifts from managing infrastructure to managing service availability and performance. Cloud computing is merely a shift of application servers from one facility to another. Issues like bottlenecks, bandwidth hogs, and unauthorized protocol usage will still adversely affect application traffic. Thus, more diligence must be applied in monitoring application performance. To remain successful in the cloud, it is essential for companies to consider the following:

1. Baseline your network environment.
Baselines should have been established way before you moved to the cloud. It is an essential part of transitioning applications to the cloud. Knowing how your network acts on a regular basis will be instrumental in helping to figure out how to monitor it in the cloud. Additionally, verifying the performance of transactions that cross multiple applications is key in a new cloud environment.

2. Security.
As with everything related to the network, security is always an area of concern and transitioning to the cloud is no exception. Concerns with security start the instant the cloud vendor is selected. The relationship with a third party to store and process highly sensitive data and applications needs to be closely monitored. The cloud vendor’s security policies and procedures should be understood and the appropriate test processes should be implemented within your own organization to ensure these policies are not violated.

3. Plan your cloud transition
The most important matter for companies considering the cloud is to be certain they have their network analysis processes firmly in place before the transition. This will ensure that they are not relying solely on the cloud vendor for advice.

Sufficient network analysis will further support a company’s success in implementing this new technology. Additionally, network speeds are constantly evolving and the arrival of 10G brings a whole new set of challenges for network managers. Proper network analysis and troubleshooting is key in this high-speed world as our networks become even more complex. For a more in-depth discussion of how cloud-computing impacts network analysis watch this free one-hour OnDemand Webcast.