The VoIP management challenge
Enterprise network managers are implementing VoIP, but how are they managing these installations? Here are four tools to simplify the taskFollow @infoworld
When measuring call quality, the DA-3400 tracked the RTP (Real-Time Transport Protocol), RTCP (RTP control protocol), and packet values along with call delay, codec identification, lost packets, and jitter. Additionally, it is capable of following the TIPHON (Telecommunications and Internet Protocol Harmonization Over Networks) perceptual call quality assessment protocol for calls in progress.
Surprisingly, our call quality across the Las Vegas-based Asterisk server was just as good as a local POTS call, however we were running across Internet2 with a cross-connect onto Qwest's backbone for the commodity Internet.
Our perceived test scores were excellent, but the DA-3400 was unable to display the actual MOS (mean opinion score), because the user interface displays MOS results as a visual band and not an actual number. This is a recurring concern: Acterna occasionally oversimplifies the results of its rather powerful tool set. The visual-only display of the MOS scores is one example; another is the rather light implementation of SNMP traps.
Acterna says it will address many of these complaints in the next version of its software, due this month. In addition to detailed MOS scores and improved SNMP, you'll also be able to integrate the Acterna console into larger management packages, such as Hewlett-Packard OpenView and IBM Tivoli.
We were surprised by this, given Acterna's leanings toward the carrier side of VoIP implementations. Clearly, Acterna smells opportunity in the enterprise market. Larger enterprises can make good use of the DA-3400, although Brix's offering is more specifically geared for such an installation.
The Brix System
In case you're wondering, Brix's etymology comes not from masonry slang, but from a term related to the proper processing of grapes into wine. After unearthing this data nugget, we dug into Brix Networks' offerings to find a pleasant surprise: This relatively new company has a well-thought-out, comprehensive suite of VoIP monitoring and testing products and services that's fully capable of competing with more established vendors' offerings.
The Brix product line is a software/hardware combination. The hardware appliances, called Verifiers, come in three flavors: Brix 100, Brix 1000, and Brix 2500. These boxes run agent software, essentially the long arm of the Brix monitoring system. Customers may install the agent software on workstations as long as they purchase the proper number of Brix Verifier Agent software licenses.
Command of the Brix system falls to either a BrixMon enterprise-class centralized management console or to a BrixWorx console, which is designed to run within a service provider's network monitoring system and control Brix Verifier Agents across multiple customer sites.
Because of our enterprise focus, we tested the BrixMon enterprise solution. Brix arrived at our ANCL testing facility with a preconfigured BrixMon workstation, two Brix 100 Verifiers, and several copies of Verifier Agent software.
Deploying the Brix system was easy, because the BrixMon software was preinstalled on Brix's Windows-based workstation, and because discovery and configuration of the Verifiers was largely automatic. After the system knew where the Brix 100s were, we could configure them for long-term monitoring or short-term testing tasks. Most of these features are specifically designed to enhance performance management and provide service-level assurances, which suggests that BrixMon still has ties to its BrixWorx sibling's service-provider orientation.