Network Tool Turns to Applications

Apparent Networks is expanding the features of its AppareNet software to support applications managers and help-desk operators.

Apparent Networks Inc. this week will introduce a more application-centric version of its AppareNet network troubleshooting tool for applications managers and help-desk operators.

The innovative tool, which gives an end-to-end view of the path that applications traffic follows from sender to receiver, was designed for network engineers. But, it found a surprisingly hearty reception among application managers and help-desk operators who use the tool to end the "blame-storming" that goes along with hard-to-troubleshoot performance or availability problems that span networks, systems and applications, according to the startups president and CEO Glenn Wong in Vancouver, British Columbia. The company in August changed its name from Jaalam Technologies.

"We found that half of our customers were not network engineers but application-assurance folks. Were the only ones that can show end-to-end whether the problem is the network or the application. We dont monitor the application per se, but we can analyze the network and confirm or eliminate that the network is the problem," he said.

AppareNet Help Desk employs the same expert diagnosis of network problems used for network engineers and applies a simpler user interface. The tool itself identifies known network problems by shooting out a sequence of packets across the network to a target end station. As the sequences traverse the path, they are altered in specific ways by specific network problems, such as poor-performing NICs, rate-limiting queues, mixing TCP and legacy protocols, or latency caused by satellite links. The alteration is essentially the signature of a specific kind of problem, which the expert diagnostic capability can identify.

"The beauty of their product is that if it does run into congestion or some other problem like packet re-ordering, it tells you not only where the problem is but what the problem is—i.e., it will tell you that you have a buffer-sharing problem on a device at this IP address," said an existing user, who asked not to be named.

The new UI is customizable for different types of users. "The CIO wants to know what the five critical data paths are and their condition," Wong explained. "Or the help desk needs a quick flash (for identifying new problems). We can design into the interface with customers when they escalate to the network engineers."

The new version of the tool also adds the ability to diagnose problems outside the customers own network. The new feature, designed for service providers or enterprises working with electronic partners, allows users to check the path outside their own network by e-mailing a sequencer to a customer and allowing the help desk to see the analysis to determine where a problem is in the customers network, Wong said.

"In the end, its about the end-to-end transfer and the ability to go the entire path right through to my end customers. AppareNet is unique in its ability to go from NIC card to NIC card," he said.

By giving network operations, applications assurance and the help desk such detailed information, the tool can help to foster greater collaboration among the groups to resolve performance problems more quickly, said Dennis Drogseth, industry analyst with Enterprise Management Associates in Portsmouth, NH.

"The state of the art in the industry has been arming one camp against the other Now (Apparent Networks) is at the point where its providing a more effective collaboration environment for the two teams to work together. There is another fractured area between the help desk and operations, which use separate tools, look at (different user interfaces)," he said.

At the same time, Apparent Networks created the help desk version, it also beefed up the core product for network engineers to allow them to set up, schedule and run a series of tests and then report the results. The intent is to allow network operators to use the tool more proactively.

"We can test any portion or all of their network. (Users) have asked us to run those tests automatically and report back the key issues to sort out problems before the phones start ringing," Wong said.

AppareNet Help Desk and AppareNet Proactive are due in December. Pricing has not yet been set.

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