Posts Tagged ‘ethernet’

Green-Running Software

January 15, 2010

Saving money by reducing the number of servers in your infrastructure makes natural sense.

The next step that needs to be considered is green-running software.  This is software that scales incredibly well for any size of organization, and also does not require “big iron” to run.

If you have software that requires a dual-processor environment with 2gigs of RAM and a large disk array, it will cost you twice as much to operate as one that fulfills the same needs yet only requires one low-powered CPU and a gig of RAM.

This becomes even more important if the software requires remote agents to be deployed across the network, each agent taking a measured amount of resources to operate (CPU, RAM, disk space, air-conditioning).

Strong consideration should be given to the solution that requires less maintenance, less hardware, and less footprint on the earth, as it will save far more than money in the long-term:  Your sanity.

Packet Analysis and VoIP: Useless?

December 23, 2009

Many people think you need to “look inside the packets” with a network analyzer to be able to debug & troubleshoot VoIP problems.  I would argue that this is rarely the case, as network analyzers are useful in a small handful of cases and most involve troubleshooting application configuration problems.

If you look at an overnight courier like UPS, their operating model has a lot of similarities to a large VoIP network.  Clients send & receive hundreds of thousands of packages across their network on a nightly basis.

If you look at how they operate, they don’t tear open packages to try to determine why a shipment went missing or why it is late. They learned a long time ago that they needed to “watch their entire network” and have tracking systems that can insure:

  1. That the packages make it to their destination (no packages lost)
  2. The packages all reach their destination on-time (low transit latency/delay)
  3. The packages reach their destination on-time as a regular occurrence (high degree of predictability with their service/low jitter)

When running a VoIP network, it’s rarely beneficial to “look inside the packets” to see the voice contents. What’s needed is the ability to “watch the entire network” so problems can be pinpointed when, where, and why they occur for fast remediation.

Flying Blind on Your Network

November 30, 2009

Many network administrators are satisfied with a limited view of their network.  They ping their routers and switches and configure utilization monitoring of their WAN links and that’s as far as they go.

What’s terrible is that they paid for some really nice enterprise-grade switches and routers that have some serious smarts built in.  Too bad they aren’t getting the full value out of these devices.

The problem lies in the fact that the “smarts” for these devices are trapped inside the SNMP agents and require a lot of programming & configuration to extract the information, then you have to do some manual analysis to make sense out of the information.

This is what frustrated me a long time ago.  I knew that the routers & switches in my network new where the problems were, but getting them to disclose this information took a lot of work and thinking.

If only there was a solution that would disclose the information in a useful, plain-English format…

“There’s gold in them thar hills!”

February 21, 2008

As I drive down highway 101 through Silicon Valley, I look at the buildings around me and think about the switches and routers running each company’s network.  They each are continuously collecting statistics about their operation, yet nobody who works for the companies have any knowledge of these health indicators until something crashes.

Most network switches and routers support SNMP, but very few companies are able to gain any benefit from this capability.

There are three main reasons for this:

  1. Training required to understand how SNMP works
  2. Research required to determine which specific OIDs should be monitored
  3. Massive amount of bugs that exist in device SNMP implementations

Many network engineers never achieve understanding of SNMP due to its complexity.  They are tasked with a multitude of business driven projects, but are rarely able to focus on improving their network’s management infrastructure so their network runs smoother.

Once SNMP as a technology is understood, one would need to determine which MIB files a specific device running a specific OS version supports.  Then, the OIDs from ASN.1 formatted MIB files need to be determined.  Even with a MIB browser, it can still be difficult to determine which variable is going to provide the information you want.  (Gaaaacckkk!!!  Too many three letter acronyms!)

Now that you know which variables to query, you run straight into the bugs that exist in SNMP.  Various equipment manufacturers have taken liberties with the SNMP standards to their benefit.  Sometimes it’s as simple boastful marketing, like “Yes, we do currently support the BRIDGE-MIB, but it’s going to be released in a future release.”  (ie: they don’t current support it, but they’re saying they do).

Sometimes there are bugs that at best make your job tougher, and at worst crashes the box.

Occassionally there are manufacturers who decide that they don’t want to fully support a MIB the way it’s defined and they change the rules to suit their own needs.

With all of these difficulties, its no wonder that more companies have difficulty getting valid information on their network.