Fluke Visual TruView Provides Deeper Insight Into Complex Networks

By Frank.Ohlhorst  |  Posted 2013-03-15

Fluke Visual TruView Provides Deeper Insight Into Complex Networks

Sustained by complexity and explosive growth, the network beast has become ever harder to tame. Add to that condition the shortage of qualified network experts and it becomes easy to see that maintaining enterprise networks has become an almost impossible task without numerous hardware and software tools to monitor and troubleshoot network performance.

But now Visual TruView from Fluke Networks aims to tame the networking beast by combining multiple network management capabilities into a unified platform, which stresses ease of use, while still delivering the big picture of how traffic moves around the network.

Available as a family of network appliances, Visual TruView offers a plethora of monitoring, management and troubleshooting tools, which are all linked together under a common interface.

Unlike other products on the market, Visual TruView uses a paradigm that focuses on specific network capabilities. In other words, dedicated menus for application, network, voice over IP (VOIP) and Website performance make it much easier to navigate what is normally a complex discovery process.

What's more, Fluke Networks throws application performance monitoring and VOIP monitoring into the mix, creating an offering that could potentially replace three separate products from other vendors.

Visual TruView is appliance-based and is available under several different models, ranging in capacity, performance and throughput. However, the software feature set is the same across the appliance family. Prices start at $25,000 for the entry level TruView-2200 and scale up to $100,000 for the top-of-the-line TruView-6200.

A Closer Look at Visual TruView From Fluke Networks

I visited Fluke Networks' Colorado Springs office to put several of the Visual TruView appliances through their paces. Introduced Jan. 28, Visual TruView is available under five different appliance configurations, which share the same software. The appliances are sized based on elements such as throughput, storage, performance and overall capacity.

Installation can be somewhat complex. However, that complexity correlates directly to the complexity of the network to which a Visual TruView appliance is being connected.

This test network consisted of several sites and various pieces of networking equipment from numerous vendors. In other words, the test network represented what would normally be seen in a large, multi-site enterprise.

The appliance uses several technologies and protocols to gather traffic and hardware information, such as SPAN and TAP for packet capture, SNMP V1-V3 for hardware information, direct API integration for Cisco hardware as well as NetFlow, IPFIX (Internet Protocol Flow Information Export), sFlow, jflow, cflowD and netstream to capture flow information. Simply put, Visual TruView captures all traffic on the network and captures all the correlating information, allowing any "conversation" to be rebuilt, analyzed and measured.

However, capturing and storing that much information takes speedy hardware and significant storage capabilities, which ultimately dictates which appliance to use or if multiple appliances are needed. There is also another consideration here: The sheer volume of data being captured introduces analytical complexities that are well beyond most platforms and, in turn, difficult to understand.

Fluke Visual TruView Provides Deeper Insight Into Complex Networks

Fluke Networks charged that potential problem head on by building a platform that leverages advanced hardware processing, high-speed storage, and most importantly, an analytical platform that can correlate, group and analyze data packet flows. That, in turn, has transformed the unenviable chore of network troubleshooting into something a junior technician can perform.

While that may sound like bad news for high-end network engineers, the simple fact of the matter is that Visual TruView can make their jobs a lot easier and allow them to be more proactive with network troubleshooting, apply the information learned to improving network architecture and work on maximizing network performance.

Perhaps one of the most impressive capabilities of Visual TruView is the way it presents critical information. The visual part of the product culminates in an HTML5/Java browser-based applet that delivers stunning graphs and dashboards that make it very easy to translate traffic issues into something actionable. What's more, the GUI is laid out in such a fashion that it makes perfect sense to those, even with a minimum of networking knowledge.

For example, the pull-down menus are grouped by performance elements for specific services and capabilities. That paradigm helps administrators focus on troubleshooting only the service where a problem is detected, rather than searching for a problem across all services.

In other words, if there is a problem with VOIP services, an administrator simply visits the VOIP performance menu and drills down to individual calls. On the back end, the platform gathers all the related information (such as hardware, packets, flow and codec information) together in real time to give a full conversational picture of the VOIP session. That changes troubleshooting from a multi-hour chore into a task that only takes minutes.

Of course, VOIP analysis is only one example here–Visual TruView offers the same capabilities and troubleshooting tools for applications, networks, and sites—all of which are compartmentalized under logical analytical buckets to help smooth troubleshooting and more importantly, support dividing up management among the administrators that are responsible for supporting a given service.

Other notable capabilities include the ability to reconstruct events at the packet level, which, in turn, translates to advanced forensic capabilities. With a few mouse clicks, an administrator can select packet conversations and replay them to reconstruct events. Email, VOIP calls, transactions and so on can all be quickly recreated—making audits and compliance-certification tasks much easier as well as providing all the information needed for e-discovery, forensics and most any other tasks, including change management correlation.

I found very few nits to pick with Fluke Networks' Visual TruView. The product delivers everything needed to effectively monitor and troubleshoot large networks. However, those capabilities do come at a fairly high price. But most enterprises may find that money well spent, especially if downtime is avoided, networking engineering staffs become more effective and end users become more productive.

Editor's Note: The headline of this article was updated to reflect the correct spelling of TruView. It was incorrectly written as TrueView.

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