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Geek Speak

37 Posts authored by: brad.hale

How many times have you received a call from an unhappy user about poor call quality?  If you’ve deployed any kind of VoIP system, then the answer is probably more than you want. Unfortunately, up until this point, there has not been a good way to troubleshoot poor VoIP performance without using invasive network probes or protocol analyzers. SolarWinds does not like to leave hard IT problems unsolved.

Today SolarWinds released the latest product within our network management family of products, VoIP and Network Quality Manager 4.0 (VNQM).  VNQM is an evolution of our IP SLA Manager product that adds support for VoIP monitoring and troubleshooting to the existing WAN performance monitoring.  If you have been looking for an affordable easy-to-use product that will help you resolve VoIP call quality and connection problems, then look no further. 

VNQM allows IT pros to search and filter call detail records (CDRs) and then view the pertinent call details, including:

  • call origination, destination, region, or call manager
  • call time
  • call status
  • jitter
  • latency
  • packet loss
  • MOS, and more.

 

CDR Search.png

 

The CDR can then be correlated with the IP SLA operation that corresponds to the call path in order to troubleshoot and pinpoint the cause of poor quality in the network .

 

Call Detail View.png

 

VNQM Highlights:

  • Monitor and Troubleshoot VoIP Call performance by correlating individual call performance with corresponding WAN performance
  • Search, filter, and display call detail records (CDRs) to aid in troubleshooting
  • Monitor site-to-site WAN performance using Cisco IP SLA technology
  • Download, install, and deploy in less than an hour

 

Below are a number of resources regarding SolarWinds new VoIP and Network Quality Manager:

 

If you are an existing IP SLA Manager customer under active maintenance, you can enjoy all of the new features of VNQM by upgrading your license within your customer portal.

I was recently changing my keys to a new key ring and included in this move was a 4GB USB flash drive. This reminded me just how ubiquitous these flash drives have become. After all, how many times have you been given a USB drive at a trade show, by a friend, or through some other unsuspecting channel?  To the network engineer who manages network security or an administrator, the common USB drive presents significant threats from both what they bring in to the network and what they can take out.

 

According to Computer World, one in four malware attacks is carried out through a USB device.  One such method is to manipulate Autorun such that it launches every time a USB device is inserted into a system.  The Stuxnet worm took advantage of other vulnerabilities and infected machines once the user browsed files on the USB drive.

 

According to Cisco, over twenty million unprotected USB drives are lost per year exposing trade secrets and proprietary information.  Couple this accidental data loss with the malicious removal of data on USB and the losses can be come staggering.

 

So, short of gluing USB ports shut, how can you go about protecting your network and data from the comings and goings of USB flash drivces?  One way is to monitor your event logs for unauthorized insertion or removal of flash drives.

 

SolarWinds Log & Event Manager (LEM) includes built-in USB Defender technology that provides real-time notification when USB drives are detected.  This notification can be further correlated with network logs to identify potential malicious attacks coming from USB drives.  With LEM’s USB Defender technology, you can take automated actions such as disabling user accounts, quarantining workstations, and automatically or manually ejecting USB devices.  Additionally, LEM provides built-in reporting to audit USB usage over time.

 

SolarWinds Log & Event Manager (LEM) delivers powerful Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) capabilities in a highly affordable, easy-to-deploy virtual appliance. It combines real-time log analysis, event correlation, and a groundbreaking approach to IT search to deliver the visibility, security, and control you need to overcome everyday IT challenges. Starting at $4,495, LEM offers a free fully functional 30-day trial so you can see just how powerful and easy-to-use it is.

As IT admins and network engineers we all know the answer to why we need to migrate to IPv6. Let’s do a quick recap. The primary sources of IPv4 addresses are getting exhausted. Of the five regional Internet registries (RIR) in the world, the Asian major, APNIC, has officially declared in 2011 that they are out of IPv4. RIPE, the European RIR, is expected to run out in 2013. Even the large blocks of pre-allocated IPv4 addresses will run out eventually.

 

It’s not just the IPv4 resource depletion issue that you must consider for the move. There are some significant advantages in migrating to IPv6.

  • IPv6’s 128 bits (versus 32 bits in IPv4) provides virtually unlimited address space that enables any device to have a unique IP address
  • Better network management and routing efficiency because of the larger subnet space
  • Improved encryption and authentication options
  • Improved QoS support
  • Extended support for mobile devices

 

The next big questions is: “How to go about migrating to IPv6?”

 

Planning is the key to unlocking hassle-free IPv6 migration.  Plan ahead in advance and identify your infrastructure needs. Check whether your network hardware and software inventory are compatible with IPv6 and support applications on IPv6.

Also, try creating and testing migration scenarios before the actual implementation.


Migration

  • Execute the migration by studying the existing IPv4 hierarchy/architecture and translating the addresses to IPv6.
  • Migrate your routing configurations by identifying and changing the configurations wherever required.
  • Migrate your security policies – such as those on routing, load balancing, health checks, etc. – seamlessly so that the network security is intact during and after the migration.


Analyze your network performance after the migration to check for any network performance issues and additional infrastructure needs.

Throughout the planning and migration process, keep in mind to assess risks and work out mitigation measures, and to minimize the cost overheads.

You can follow any of the popular migration approaches – dual stack, tunnels, and translation – but ensure to carry out a well-planed and resilient migration to IPv6 to not have the users, applications, network, IT infrastructure and business services impacted later on.

 

You can learn more or see for yourself how SolarWinds IP Address Manager can help take the headache out of your IPv6 Migration by test-driving our live demo or if you’re ready to take the next step, you can download a free, fully functional 30-day trial!

If you’ve deployed VoIP at any level then it is quite likely that you have received complaints about poor call quality.  How exactly does one measure VoIP call quality and how does one go about troubleshooting the cause of the poor quality?

VoIP Metrics

Maintaining high quality VoIP calls can be difficult as VoIP is more sensitive to network delays and packet loss compared to any other network applications.  VoIP quality is measured based on the following metrics:

  • Network Jitter and Delay - excess jitter and delay result in calls breaking up and can be mitigated by the use of jitter buffers, however, too much jitter buffer can cause unacceptable voice delays
  • Packet Data Loss – packet loss can occur for a variety of reasons including link failure, high congestion levels, misrouted packets, buffer overflows and a number of other factors.  Packet loss can be controlled using packet loss concealment techniques within the playback codec.
  • Latency – measured in milliseconds (ms) results in voice delay and echo
  • Mean Opinion Score (MOS ) – indicates the percieved quality of the call and is expressed as a number in the range of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent)

Troubleshooting the Old Way

Historically, network or VoIP engineers have used a variety of tools to monitor and measure the call quality components including:

  • Passive network monitoring tools that monitor VoIP performance based on network performance statistics and estimate MOS score
  • Protocol analyzers - hardware or software tools that capture and analyze VoIP traffic packets and calculate jitter, and latency directly from the packet stream.
  • Dedicated VoIP tools - originally developed for the telecomm industry and are great for testing IP phone and gateway designs but not as good at solving deployment problems within the network.

Unfortunately, these tools will not provide a correlation between the specific call detail and the underlying network performance to identify the root cause of the poor quality.  Enter SolarWinds VoIP & Network Quality Manager.

Troubleshooting With SolarWinds VoIP & Network Quality Manager

SolarWinds VoIP & Network Quality Manager is an evolution of our IP SLA Manager and provides VoIP monitoring and troubleshooting alongside WAN performance monitoring.  VoIP & Network Quality Manager works by correlating the call detail record (CDR) with the IP SLA operation that corresponds to the network call path.  With VoIP & Network Quality Manager you can:

  • Get at-a-glance insight into VoIP sites, calls by region, failed calls, and more
  • Monitor site-to-site WAN performance using Cisco IP SLA technology
  • Search and retrieve call detail records by call origination & destination, region, call time, call status, or quality metrics
  • Correlate detailed call metrics with underlying network performance data for faster troubleshooting and root cause analysis


With VoIP & Network Quality Manager, you can troubleshoot poor VoIP calls in three easy steps:

  1. Retrieve the call detail record of the affected call using VoIP & Network Quality Manager’s call search
  2. View the IP SLA performance details for the corresponding call path
  3. Drill down for detailed performance statistics for each router in the call path


SolarWinds VoIP & Network Quality Manager will soon be available for download.  In the meantime, you can learn more here.

I recently saw the results of a survey published by Athena Security entitled “The Corporate Firewall-Playing With Fire” that stated that up to 95% of corporate firewalls may be vulnerable due to the difficulty of auditing them manually. It goes on to state that firewall audits require a review of the configuration rules that that determine the firewall’s behavior in context of the network.

 

Firewall management can be complicated by a number of factors: network complexity, multi-vendor heterogeneous environments, managing and maintaining the rule base, and understanding the impact of changes before the changes are made.  The reality, however, is that there’s really no reason that firewall auditing and configuration management has to be that difficult if one uses the appropriate automated tools.  Specifically, a combination of an automated firewall analytics and a network change and configuration management (NCCM) tool can greatly simplify this process. 

 

Firewall analytics tools will allow you to understand all components of the firewall configuration and provide assistance around profiling, search, rule/object cleanup, security audits, change impact, and historical tracking.  Configuration management tools will greatly simplify the firewall configuration process by providing change management, real-time alerts, policy violation detection and reporting, config backups, config comparisons, and activity tracking in a unified interface.

By incorporating these two tools, you can more effectively manage firewall configurations and the changes that are made to these firewall configurations.

 

SolarWinds has partnered with Athena to provide integration between SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager and Athena’s FirePAC firewall analytics tool.  To learn more about this integration, you can download this whitepaper:  Firewall Management with SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager & Athena FirePAC.

If you’re looking for a cost effective way to manage your entire IP infrastructure then look no further. We’ve been listening to IT professionals around the world that need an easy-to-use tool that will manage both their IP address space and their DHCP/DNS services without the need for expensive physical or virtual appliances from the likes of Infoblox, Bluecat, and others.

 

Today we launched version 3.0 of SolarWinds IP Address Manager (IPAM).  IPAM v3.0 brings management of Microsoft DHCP services, monitoring of Microsoft DNS records and zones, and monitoring of Cisco® DHCP services to the already powerful IP address management capabilities of IPAM. With v3.0 you now have a full-featured IP infrastructure tool:

 

  • Centralized IP Address Management with role based user delegation
  • Management of Microsoft DHCP services
  • Monitoring of Microsoft DNS records and zones
  • Monitoring of Cisco DHCP services
  • Reporting improvements

 

In addition, v3.0 also includes an import wizard that makes transitioning from spreadsheets or .csv files quick and easy.

Here is just a summary of some of the great IP address management features that you get along with the new DHCP/DNS features:

 

  • Prevent IP address conflicts
  • Preventative alerting
  • Team-based access with role based controls
  • History and address tracking

 

You can learn more or see for yourself how powerful IPAM v3.0 is by test-driving our live demo or if you’re ready to take the next step, you can download a free, fully functional 30-day trial.

I recently read a blog about Networking in the Cloud by Jeff Loughridge discussing the configuring of a network composed of both physical and cloud components. While he provided some insightful configuration examples and stressed the importance of working with your cloud provider, there was no mention of the impact on network monitoring.

 

In a traditional network configuration, network monitoring primarily focuses on the availability and performance of the network infrastructure but as more of the network shifts to the cloud, then your monitoring needs to shift to service availability and performance.   Why is this? Quite simply it is because you cannot afford to have your cloud based business critical applications negatively impacted due to poor network performance between your location and the cloud provider.

 

Since your WAN link is the lifeblood between you and your cloud provider, it is paramount that you monitor its performance.  Excess latency or jitter can have significant negative impact on your service availability and performance.  One simple way to monitor WAN performance is to use Cisco IP SLA technology (if you are using Cisco routers).  IP SLA allows generates time based performance data so you can measure key statistics between your site and the cloud site.  One additional benefit to using IP SLA is to create service level agreement metrics to determine if your CSP or your cloud provider are delivering what they promised.  In addition, more advanced, but often times more expensive, solutions such as WAN optimization can also be used.

Cloud Latency.jpg

It is not enough to simply monitor WAN performance; you also need to understand your network traffic (who is using it, how much are they using, and what they are using it for). Again, a simple but quite effective solution to monitoring network traffic is to use flow analysis such as NetFlow (or its counterparts J-Flow, sFlow, IPFIX, and NetStream).  Flow enabled routers collect traffic data so you can see just how your traffic is being used.

NetFlow Top 10.jpg

Now that you know your WAN performance and how your traffic is being used, you can begin to implement and monitor Quality of Service (QoS) policies to ensure that your cloud based business critical apps are getting the priority they need.

NetFlow CBQoS.jpg

So, just because you are shifting some of your apps and infrastructure to the cloud, does not mean that you can ignore your network monitoring.  It becomes more critical than ever to ensure that your users continue to experience the performance that they are accustomed to.

 

And, if you are interested in using SolarWinds products to monitor your network in the cloud, you should dig into SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, NetFlow Traffic Analyzer, and IP SLA Manager.

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