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
For those with large VoIP installations, however, the BrixMon system is an excellent central-site management solution. It provides not only secure management communications but also all the tools an enterprise network manager requires.
One key feature is Brix's ability to automatically launch network tests based on preset performance thresholds. If the monitoring system reports a problem, for example, the same agent machine can initiate network tests that will provide the service technician with detailed diagnostic data as soon as he starts work on the problem.
BrixMon's interface is Web-based, but that doesn't impede the feature set or system performance. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised by its detailed reporting capabilities. The reports run in real time, often doing double duty as performance analyzers.
Brix thoughtfully includes support for extended historical reporting data, allowing the Brix System to act as a data mine for long-term network performance and service-level questions. For the technician on the go, the Brix System contains the usual suite of executive-oriented reports, plus a Quick Report suite that extracts down-and-dirty technical data for diagnostics and management.
Because the Brix System can act as a general network management tool, the features necessary for high-end VoIP management are part of the optional BrixMon Advanced VoIP Test Suite. It provides the tools to conduct ongoing VoIP management and allows predeployment testing -- a feature near and dear to the hearts of those deploying VoIP in a place where the suits are extra sensitive to call quality.
The system is designed to run its test suite against a variety of VoIP protocols, including SIP, H.323, and Cisco SCCP (Skinny Client Control Protocol). Within these protocols, Brix tests call setup performance, call quality, and transmission speed.
With support for H.323, it's no surprise that Brix makes available an optional Video Test Suite for testing video conferencing. The suite includes a wealth of network statistical verifiers, from voice and video quality to packet loss, jitter, and bandwidth utilization. Acerna and Fluke Networks can do this using different software or different features of their software, but the functionality is aimed at general network management metrics, not specifically at VoIP.
Because of its youth, the Brix System isn't as fully utilized as the architecture will support. Therefore Brix's strategy to implement new testing capabilities as software that can be installed on the BrixMon station and then pushed out to Verifiers is an excellent way for users to protect their investment -- they'll gain significant new features via software updates without resorting to new hardware purchases.
Although the Brix system is overkill for smaller or local VoIP installations, it's one of the best we've seen for managing larger enterprise VoIP deployments, especially those with many branch offices.
Fluke Networks OptiView Protocol Expert Plus
For large and midsize companies interested in managing a VoIP implementation in-house, this analyzer does a fine job of augmenting Fluke Networks' OptiView software line. Fluke Networks already has significant market penetration with small-IT-budget companies, and these customers can now access robust VoIP monitoring and testing tools without ponying up for an all-new tool suite.