Author Profile - Steve Brown of Network Instruments provides in-depth network intelligence and continuous network availability through innovative analysis solutions. Enterprise network professionals depend on Network Instruments’ Observer product line for unparalleled network visibility to efficiently solve network problems and manage deployments. By combining a powerful management console with high-performance analysis appliances, Observer simplifies problem resolution and optimizes network and application performance. The company continues to lead the industry in ROI with its advanced Distributed Network Analysis (NI-DNA™) architecture, which successfully integrates comprehensive analysis functionality across heterogeneous networks through a single monitoring interface. Network Instruments is headquartered in Minneapolis with sales offices worldwide and distributors in over 50 countries.
Stephen Brown is the Product Marketing Manager for network analysis vendor Network Instruments with nearly a decade of experience in network management and security. Areas of interest include data loss prevention, network compliance, and VoIP management. Stephen is a member of InfraGard and graduated with a degree in Marketing from the University of Iowa.
The South Yorkshire Police VoIP Issues and
The South Yorkshire Police were an early adopter of proven technologies including Voice over IP, video conferencing and http-based systems specific to police practices. These applications run over a complex network infrastructure linked to two data centers.
Technology is not failsafe, especially as applications become more sophisticated and the need for jitter-free IP-based communications increases. To ensure the South Yorkshire Police network and its applications are available 24 hours-a-day, the IT team has deployed a highly effective, yet relatively low-cost, network and application monitoring platform.
This comprises of Network Instruments' Observer Suite, a long-term capture appliance GigaStor, and multiple probes.
This set-up continually sniffs the network for faults and provides feedback and analysis highlighting areas where performance is impaired or failures are most likely to happen. South Yorkshire Police also uses Network Instruments’ retrospective network analysis technology to investigate incidents days, weeks or months later, providing down-to-the-second reports on traffic and application activities before, during and after the problem occurred. This makes it ideal for monitoring Quality of Service (QoS) and key performance indicators.
According to Adam Hill, network infrastructure architect at South Yorkshire Police, “The feature-rich set of analysis tools provided by Observer and GigaStor ensures that the raw information we acquire from our network probes is efficiently translated into actionable items. The main benefit that influenced our purchasing decision for Observer Suite was the integration of all components within a single package.”
To Catch a Thief
The Network Instruments solution supports two main operational aspects for South Yorkshire Police. First, GigaStor is positioned to capture, analyze and conduct long-term trending on all traffic entering the main police data centre via 8 Gb links. This provides the ability to navigate to the exact moment a problem happened, and to see a detailed packet-level view of the occurrence. Second, the probes are positioned at all 12 major sites to monitor WAN traffic to and from the site.
Network Instruments probes are located at key points on the network—at the WAN link and data centre access points. Often the problems are localized so the probes are sufficient. If there is an issue across multiple areas then the Network Instruments GigaStor probe appliance looks back at performance patterns to highlight flashpoints.
According to Hill, “The ability to store large amounts of rolling data and then to have the ability to review this days, weeks and even months later is invaluable and is the only way we can guarantee network health."
“Using VoIP as an example, we have been able to record and save calls made over the force’s network and can later review these for troubleshooting purposes, for analysis or to verify quality of service. Without the GigaStor this would not be possible and we potentially could have faced serious telephony issues.”
South Yorkshire Police provides policing and protection to the community 24 hours a day. To support this, the organization needs every element of its operation to be functional at all times. As a result, Observer and GigaStor platform has proven to be invaluable. From the moment of installation it has delivered real operational benefits, which cannot be measured in monetary terms.
“I can’t rate the application analysis tool enough,” said Hill. “We have the ability to store massive amounts of data and then review this using time-based analysis without having to recreate problems. This greatly reduces the mean time to resolution and the number and cost of man hours it would require to manually do this. In fact, without the GigaStor some faults would remain unidentified."
Managing Government and Internal Rollouts
In addition to monitoring existing behavior, South Yorkshire Police is increasingly using Observer to plan new application deployments.
“Observer provides granular insight into the network—24 hours-a-day,” said Hill. “In addition to day-to-day monitoring and deep application analysis, it is also perfect for pre-planning the impact of new application roll-outs on network performance.”
The South Yorkshire Police network team is responsible for two types of application rollouts—those that are mandated by the government and central policing initiatives (including Criminal Records Bureau (CBR) checks and the Street Crime Initiative), and those driven internally to enable improvements in performance and operational cost savings.
For example, Observer was instrumental in helping provision VoIP phones to almost all South Yorkshire Police personnel. This enabled the removal of all fixed line telephony links.
According to Hill, “Without Observer I would have struggled with the installation and tuning of VoIP. It saved a lot of time in fault finding and enabled me to greatly reduce our mean time to resolution. On a day-to-day basis it is perfect for controlling jitter and enables us to pro-actively monitor call quality.”
The Network Instruments monitoring platform has developed over the last six years and will continue to do so as the needs of South Yorkshire Police evolve.
“The combined Observer Suite and GigaStor monitoring platform has enabled South Yorkshire Police to run and manage a highly resilient 90-site network,” said Hill.