Tool Assesses VOIP Readiness

Network management vendor Apparent Networks is showing users how to prepare and maintain networks for optimum VOIP quality.

As Voice-Over-IP deployments continue to increase, enterprises are looking to get a handle on what it takes to support and manage voice services on traditional IP data systems. Now, one smaller network management vendor is stepping into the breach to show users how to prepare and maintain networks for optimum VOIP quality.

Apparent Networks Inc. next week will introduce its AppareNet Enterprise Voice tool, designed to help enterprises assess the readiness of their networks pre-VOIP deployment; find, diagnose and fix problems that can impact voice call quality; and watch the network over time for changes that could degrade voice performance.

According to one user of Apparent Networks tools, only 20 percent of the networks he has seen are ready for voice traffic.

"From a business perspective, Id say none are ready for voice," said Grant Vogelsang, senior customer systems analyst at SaskTel, a provincially owned telephone company based in Regina, Saskatchewan.

AppareNet Enterprise Voice, made up of a server, a Web-based user interface and sequencers located in data centers or at key offices on the network, tests all IP elements in the network for quality-of-service faults; half/full-duplex conflicts; performance problems in network interface cards, switches and routers; and other errors. It also measures MOS (mean Opinion scores)—a measurement of voice quality—as well as latency, jitter, packet loss and more.

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AppareNet Enterprise Voice does not require agents or probes to be installed at remote sites, and it can evaluate high call volumes without affecting existing network traffic, according to Chris Norris, product manager at the Vancouver, British Columbia, company.

Sequencers are used to send out predefined packet bursts to destination IP addresses, and results are fed back to the server, which includes a network intelligence system that analyzes the results and diagnoses problems.

Cisco Systems Inc., which has helped many customers deploy VOIP, does not recommend any particular testing tools, but it strongly recommends predeployment assessments. "To maximize your success, a network readiness assessment is pretty key," said Kathryn Robinson, director of the voice practice for Ciscos Advanced Services group, in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

AppareNet Enterprise Voice will be available next week, priced at $170,000.

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