Getting a real-time view of traffic as it traverses the network to better troubleshoot problems and plan for growth has always been a difficult task. Packet Design on March 27 made it a little easier with a new set of appliances that can provide that end-to-end visibility from source to destination even as the paths change.
The company added a new Traffic Explorer offering that exploits its existing Route Explorer technology that watches the messages passed between routers to build a Layer 3 topology map that shows the paths traffic traverses even as they change in real time. Traffic Explorer brings to that understanding of network-wide routing paths data on actual traffic loads as they move across the routed network.
"It gives you a unique understanding of network traffic and routing and lets you diagnose problems and do planning in a way you couldnt do before," said Jeff Raice, executive vice president of business development, in Palo Alto, Calif.
One beta tester working with the new Traffic Explorer appliance agreed that it is a unique capability. "Understanding application flows is a plus, but seeing how route changes affect those flows seems to be unique in the industry," said Todd Dierksheide, network operations manager at Sovereign Bank, in Reading, Pa.
Sovereign Bank is hoping to use the appliance to better manage QOS (quality of service) for VOIP (voice over IP) and video over IP. "In the long run well be able to use it to look at the way that changes in dynamic routing are going to impact our QOS queues we built out on the network. Thats key when youre running a lot of voice and video," he said.
Traffic Explorer also allows network engineers to see how routing changes impact traffic to speed problem resolution; find less costly workarounds for congestion points; conduct capacity planning and optimization functions based on the network as it is running rather than on less accurate static models; and more.
The appliances are deployed at strategic points in the network such as the data center, Internet gateways, key critical links to partners or sales teams, the call center and any subset of locations that represent a majority of the traffic introduced onto the network.
They initially gather NetFlow data from Cisco routers, although Packet Design intends to add support for standard traffic types such as sFlow and the Internet Engineering Task Forces IPFIX (IP Flow Information Export) standard.
"NetFlow data lets you look at each flow, the bit rate of each flow, [and] source and destination for each flow, so we know the path through the network between any source and destination. We know where its going," Raice said.
Although Traffic Explorer competes with existing modeling tools from vendors such as Opnet, it is unique in enabling online modeling, according to Raice.
It is available now and starts at $190,000.