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Today many companies around the world choose a Cisco networking infrastructure to service their physical and virtual networking needs for enterprise and data center operations. Cisco is incorporating various new technologies, like the Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and software defined networking (SDN) into their networking equipment. These enterprises are planning to migrate to the latest SDN based technologies to help IT engineers improve their network infrastructure. However, new technologies cause disruptions in existing monitoring strategies. This includes mirroring technologies for packet and flow data e.g. switched port analyzer (SPAN), remote SPAN (RSPAN), encapsulated remote SPAN (ERSPAN), and VLAN access-list (VACL) that have issues with encapsulation and other new technologies.

This creates a need to have a visibility architecture to overcome the limitations and maximize the use of the Cisco equipment, while at the same time, having the right monitoring solution would enable monitoring of application performance on the underlying network.

In this blog, we will review a few challenges with packet capture in the ACI network and then discuss the solution to overcome this challenge and perform network troubleshooting.

 

Challenges of Data visibility in ACI

The Cisco ACI architecture focuses on distributed applications. It uses a centralized controller and an overlay structure to create, deliver, and automate application policies throughout the network. Access to data monitoring can be accomplished either by use of taps or SPAN-related technology, depending upon the architecture implementation. However, issues like duplicate packets and the need for data filtering capabilities still exist and creates a significant burden for many monitoring tools. For instance, redundant traffic streams and a distributed leaf and spine architecture means that one should tap in multiple places to collect all the monitoring data needed in this architecture. This creates a significant amount of duplicate data from the BiDi taps that needs to be removed from the monitoring stream. To complicate matters, leaf portions of the networks are running at 40 Gbps and the spine portions can run at up to 100 Gbps. Removal of 40 Gbps duplicate packets can be very expensive for any monitoring tools at line rate.

VXLAN headers are often used to create the ACI network overlays. Unfortunately, many monitoring tools do not understand the VXLAN headers, so they need to be removed from the monitoring data by an NPB before the data can be sent to the tool(s). SSL encrypted data issues are often another problem for tools as well. Besides the ACI architecture, there are concerns with using SPAN and SPAN-related technologies in an ACI environment.

 

The Combined Solution

CA Tech and Ixia (a Keysight business) have partnered together to provide a powerful solution to overcome the above challenges and provide the right solution for your monitoring needs.

 

 

CA Application Delivery Analysis can help you prove how well your network delivers applications to users with application delivery analysis of performance and availability of SLA measurements. It helps you focus investments on the areas that require it most and later quantify the before and after, validate the impact of those changes and verify your investment decisions. Ixia’s Network Visibility Solutions (NVS), including TAPs and network packet brokers (NPB), complement CA application delivery solution to create the best-in-class scalable and resilient application monitoring solutions that IT professional need and want to purchase.

Ixia’s NVS solutions helps to remove unnecessary packet data and packet headers (at line rates of 40 Gbps or higher) before transmission across the network. It provides data filtering, aggregation and packet slicing capabilities. It can perform data rate throttling and load balancing to reduce 40 Gbps traffic so that it can be processed easily by CA Application delivery analysis solution.

 

Below diagram shows a simple network deployment of combined solution.

 

 

Feel free to reach out to me at AnujGupta for more detailed discussions on this topic.#

Joint solution empowers IT with visibility into cloud to ensure optimal end-user experience.

Today, the business leaders move their services to the public cloud without consulting or even notifying IT of the change, until an issue arises. While this has become common, IT teams are still responsible for finding and fixing problems, remaining accountable for not just performance and security but also for the end user experience. And the challenge of maintaining control does not stop with the initial deployment. From a recent Gartner survey on the cloud monitoring challenges, more than 50 percent engineers said they were “blind to what happens in the cloud” while 32 percent cited visibility gaps and the majority felt the data shared by cloud providers did not meet their needs.

Notwithstanding, moving applications to the public cloud creates stumbling blocks for application and IT teams, as they no longer have the visibility needed to be effective. Yet it is critical that applications continue to deliver high levels of responsiveness and availability—at all times, no matter if the application is deployed in the data center, private cloud, public cloud, or a combination of all three.

 

The good news is that, the CA Technologies and Keysight (Ixia) have teamed together to develop a best practices approach to monitor packet data in the cloud. The joint CA Application Delivery Analysis (CA ADA) and Ixia CloudLens™ solutions provide the end-to-end response-time-monitoring capabilities that the IT team needs to track and optimize the end-user experience, no matter where the application is deployed. With CA ADA, which provides deep insight into TCP/IP conversations across multi-tiered applications, you can quickly identify the domain in which issues arise, so you can do faster incident triage and resolution. Ixia’s visibility solutions complement CA ADA by providing the full end-to-end visibility of physical, virtual, and cloud network traffic it needs. The joint solution can detect user experience issues as they occur and before customers become aware, so they can be quickly addressed.

 

 

 

 

CA Application Delivery Analysis (ADA) provides the end-to-end response-time-monitoring capabilities that the IT teams need to measure and report on the performance of applications across your infrastructure, quickly isolate and fix performance bottlenecks, and optimize the end-user experience. The solution is efficient to deploy and manage, delivering performance and availability measurements that are based on real multi-tiered application response times, without requiring synthetic tests or agents. CA ADA continually collects performance metrics, automatically establishes intelligent baselines, and instantly generates alerts when performance starts to deteriorate. Convenient application scorecards provide an at-a-glance view of critical application performance, while SLA reporting summarizes both performance and availability of applications.

 

 

 

Further to my previous post Part 1: Bridging the Gap with Application-Aware Network Performance Monitoring (AA-NPM) where-in I had discussed on the challenges of monitoring application performance from a network perspective and lack thereof of such solutions and why they are more relevant than ever, this post looks at possible solutions from CA technologies that enable application-driven network performance management (ANPM). These solutions deliver comprehensive, centralized views of all the metrics and measurements needed to understand, manage and optimize performance of critical applications running on the network.

 

CA Technologies delivers several robust products, including CA Application Delivery Analysis, CA Network Flow Analysis, and CA Unified Communications Monitor which can be used in tandem or individually, to address a range of technological and business imperatives. Through these integrated solutions, an enterprise can leverage a unified view of all the metrics being gathered, including application response times, network flow data, resource capacity, voice and video quality of service and more. Further, these offerings feature the open standards support that enables them to be effectively integrated with a range of third-party and custom IT management tools.

 

CA Application Delivery Analysis (ADA)

Understanding application response times between infrastructure components is critical to managing end-user experience, which is ultimately the most important measure of network performance. CA ADA delivers an end-to-end response time monitoring solution that enables your IT team to gain the insights it needs to optimize the end-user experience. With CA Application Delivery Analysis (ADA), you can isolate the source of bottlenecks and verify the performance of applications delivered over the network.

 

CA Network Flow Analysis (NFA)

NFA allows administrators to quickly troubleshoot issues, identify top users and applications, implement service quality policies and track their efficacy. With these capabilities, your administrators can manage the capacity of network resources to maximize the service levels of the most critical applications and services. It offers the visibility needed to distinguish between personal and business, and lower and higher priority activities, and to determine how the network is prioritizing various types of traffic, including rich-media applications.

 

CA Unified Communications Monitor (UCM) helps to:

  • Track the specific performance metrics—such as mean opinion score (MOS), jitter, latency, call volume and utilization—that you need to maximize the quality of experience delivered by voice over IP and video applications
  • Measure the impact of unified communications traffic on other applications
  • Monitor quality, device health and performance of voice and video applications
  • Gain the insights you need to identify type-of-service misconfigurations
  • Report on key call set-up metrics and monitor calls in real time

 

Benefits

With the comprehensive, robust capabilities of AA-NPM solutions from CA Technologies, the network team can gain the visibility and intelligence it needs to understand the network within the context of the applications and services it supports. These solutions provide the visibility you need to efficiently manage complex, demanding enterprise networks. With these capabilities, an organization can realize a range of benefits:

  • Boost service levels by delivering the immediate alerts, fast insights and intuitive workflows needed to reduce downtime and performance issues.
  • Better manage costs and resources by providing data-driven insights regarding network capacity, quality of service policies, infrastructure investments and planned application and service roll-outs. These solutions also provide the insights to make more informed investment decisions to address evolving technical and business requirements.
  • Deliver more business value by enabling organization to start making decisions based on rich data, rather than guesswork. By managing networks with a focus on optimizing applications and business services, your IT team can get out of reactive firefighting mode, and elevate the dialog with business leadership and users to focus on proactive planning, decision making and cost management.

 

To conclude, managing networks so they support optimal application performance has never been more challenging, or more critical. By leveraging AA-NPM solutions from CA Technologies, an organization can harness the robust and comprehensive capabilities it needs to understand and optimize how business-critical applications perform on the network.

 

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Today, a large number and wide range of applications are running on enterprise networks, including latency-sensitive voice and video traffic, critical business applications and more. The increase in the number of applications and the varied nature of application traffic traversing the network place increased demands on network capacity and make it all the more challenging to manage network performance.

 

Many administrators are trying to manage their networks with basic network fault and availability monitoring tools. While these tools are fine for managing network devices and links, they don’t deliver the fundamental insights administrators need to understand application performance and network traffic flows. With this limited visibility, administrators can’t truly track and optimize application performance, and as a result, organizations suffer from poor service levels, suboptimal configurations and investments and inefficient operations—which can all have a significant impact on business performance.

 

Lacking this application-level visibility, your organization’s IT and operations staffs are apt to contend with significant challenges as follows:

  • Lower priority and personal user activities consume excessive resources, while the performance of critical business services suffers from costly outages and significant performance issues.
  • Long time taken to isolate and troubleshoot application performance issues.
  • Difficulty understanding how network changes and new infrastructure investments will affect different applications, leading to un-intended degradations and outages.
  • Money is wasted on underutilized infrastructure.

 

All these challenges can have a significant negative business impact, potentially eroding user

productivity, revenues and customer loyalty. That’s where an AA-NPM solution is critical. An AA-NPM solution integrates these vital entities of application and underlying network infrastructure and provides complete visibility into the business-critical applications and their dependencies.

              

                                        

 AA-NPM solutions provides

  • Improved User Experience and better Visibility into IT Infrastructure using single comprehensive dashboard view of their critical business applications and underlying network infrastructure.
  • Clear business co-relation and value-add by seeing how vital modules of IT and business services performs on the underlying It infrastructure that are responsible for the health and availability of critical applications.
  • Faster Troubleshooting of Problems by finding root cause, as well enabling an engineer to prepare for the future and perform proper capacity planning during the peak usage hours.
  • Enhanced Productivity and Optimal Budget Usage by reducing mean time to repair (MTTR) and improving the overall quality of service.

 

Bottom line, AA-NPM tools effectively enable IT professionals to gain the insight they need into the interplay of all the infrastructure elements that comprise the user experience of a web-delivered application. They provide a mechanism for monitoring and managing application and network infrastructure as a single entity.

 

See Part 2: How CA helps in Application-Aware Network Performance Monitoring (AA-NPM)? of the series to learn how CA Technologies help provide network visibility for optimizing the use of business critical applications.

 

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