Network bottlenecks, dirty words to the network engineer, are something that every IT professional has to deal with. Bottlenecks can occur in the network, servers, or storage fabric and result from a variety of different issues including unexpected user behavior, suboptimal router and switch configuration, hardware failures, network design or a variety of other reasons. These bottlenecks can create data flow slowdowns, which can slow application performance, cause outages and make customers unhappy.
The first and most critical technique in eliminating network bottlenecks is proactively monitoring bandwidth usage on critical network, server, or storage fabric interfaces. It allows you to take corrective action before issues arise. Bandwidth monitoring is also the first step in troubleshooting many user application issues. Are the issues transient? Is it spiking after weeks of reliable behavior? Did traffic suddenly fall to 0 after a local admin reconfigured a device? Historical data, especially in chart form, speaks volumes.
There are a number of methods to monitor bandwidth usage across an interface including the use of CLI commands, open source tools, free tools or licensed applications designed specifically for this purpose. One great free tool is SolarWinds free Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor (RTBM).
RTBM is a desktop app that monitors the interfaces on routers, switches, firewalls, servers, or any SNMP enabled device (supporting MIB 2). You can see exactly how much bandwidth is being used or how much traffic is flowing through each interface and includes easy-to-use historical charting. You can even monitor multiple interfaces from different devices simultaneously on the same graph for comparative analysis. You can minimize RTBM to your system tray, with customizable thresholds for alerts, and set monitor frequency as low as 500ms.
Monitoring your interfaces with RTBM is a simple three-step process.
First – Tell RTBM what device you want to monitor by providing an IP address or hostname, the SNMP version, and your community string. The tool also includes an SMNPv3 credentials manager to make it easier to interact with more secure devices.
Second – Select the interface(s) that your would like to monitor. RTBM automatically searches your device and lists all its interfaces without requiring command line or a web GUI on the device.
Third – Tune RTBM’s graphs for the typical acceptable performance of your monitored interfaces by setting your thresholds for warning and critical states, and time-span and reporting/element frequency.
Fourth – Click Launch! RTBM will begin real-time data acquisition and performance graphing for your network device. You’ll get individual measurements for inbound and outbound traffic and because RTBM also checks the total capacity for each interface, it reports the percent utilization as well. Minimize it to the system tray and you’ll be alerted to warning and critical traffic levels if it exceeds your customized thresholds.
For more advanced monitoring capabilities, SolarWinds offers Network Performance Monitor (NPM). NPM enables you to quickly detect, diagnose, and resolve network performance problems and outages. NPM delivers detailed monitoring and analysis of network performance data, automatically discovers network devices and shows performance stats in real-time, and includes out-of-the-box dashboards, alerts, reports, best practice thresholds, and more.
If you are looking for a way to test load-balancing scenarios before you deploy into production, then take a look at SolarWinds Network Traffic Generator: WAN Killer tool. With WAN Killer you can quickly set the circuit bandwidth and the percent of load needed and WAN Killer will generate random traffic. WAN Killer will interactively test the connection and adjust the traffic generated to achieve the desired load based on your requirements. WAN killer is one of more than 50 tools that are part of SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset.
Author Bio: Brad Hale, Product Marketing Principal
Brad Hale joined SolarWinds in 2009 and is the product marketing principal for network management products, bringing over 20 years of product management, product marketing, business development and strategy experience in the software, systems, and semiconductor industries. Brad has an MBA from Butler University (go Bulldogs) and a BS in Computer Engineering from Purdue University (go Boilermakers).