Once upon a time getting a dial tone was a big deal. Invented by a German engineer in 1908, the dial tone told a switchboard operator that someone wanted to make a call. Later on, when the phone system became automated, the dial tone indicated it was possible to make a call. Rotary or pulse dialing evolved into push-button “Touch Tone” dialing based on transistor technology that provided the necessary reliability to make calls. Today, IP communications is much more complex. As ZK Research recently pointed out, current UC solutions are distributed systems made up of physical servers, virtual servers, IP phones that utilize shared networks, video end points, mobile devices, wireless networks and multiple applications. In short, the UC user experience is impacted by infrastructure, signaling and media.
Assuring UC services and achieving a high quality user experience is extremely challenging in a complex IT environment. UC service degradations or outages can happen when things go wrong with switches, routers, firewalls, call servers, database servers, gateways, bandwidth, end points and more. What goes wrong includes QoS/DSCP mismatches, packet loss, latency and jitter. More often than not, IT professionals learn about problems when users contact support to complain about things like being unable to connect with their UC service; not being able to dial out; experiencing poor voice quality, trouble with one-way calls, grainy or jumpy video and static or noise during conference calls. UC service degradations are not always caused by the UC system, but can be the result of poorly designed apps, oversubscription of network resources and issues with enablers like DNS or authentication. Sometimes a poor UC experience has to do with the headset, laptop microphone or video camera.
Monitoring the UC service delivery environment must result in finding the problem faster and identifying the root cause in real time. That won’t happen when doing UC troubleshooting through a process of eliminating potential root-causes one at a time. Below are four tips for achieving rapid service triage to assure a flawless UC user experience.
IT teams tend to use a variety of tools to manage the various UC components. A multitude of silo-specific point tools and disparate data sets lack the ability to triage complex service delivery issues. A substantially better approach is when the IT organization gains real time actionable intelligence through continuous monitoring of the physical, virtual and hybrid IT environment. Understanding in real time what is happening, where it is occurring and why it is taking place is only possible with a vendor-independent holistic view and analysis into all the parts that are used to deliver UC services including infrastructure, servers, protocols, network enablers, applications and more.
One coherent data set
What’s needed by the IT team is a consistent and cohesive set of metrics derived in real-time from deep analysis of the traffic traversing the service delivery infrastructure. Traffic-based data must be gathered at key vantage points throughout the IT environment to deliver UC performance insights. That means monitoring a broad set of service aggregation points such as data centers, application server clusters, server farms, remote offices and branch offices.
Top-down service contextual workflows
UC service degradation can happen anywhere and at any time. To get ahead of the problem before it becomes a problem, IT professionals should utilize intuitive and service contextual workflows to quickly pinpoint specific user, network, protocol and application failures. This top-down service assurance approach in multi-domain IT environments offers at-a-glance status and performance metrics of UC services together with a contextual analysis of UC transactions, sessions and packets. It is the most operationally efficient way to assure a flawless user experience for a broad range of UC services within enterprise environments.
Assess the impact of new services
Accurately assessing the impact of new services is critical because UC shares the same IT infrastructure with other business services like ERP. A service assurance solution must be able to monitor traffic data across the IT infrastructure with deep granularity, to identify capacity, network and/or services shortfalls, as well as to better understand how resources are being consumed enterprise-wide.
These tips are proven ways IT teams can effectively deliver exceptional UC services. According to Forrester Consulting, traditional approaches to performance management prolong problem resolution, inhibit IT collaboration and lead to higher operational expenses and extended time spent in war-rooms. A top-down rapid service triage approach provides insights into service interdependencies and enables a common situational awareness thereby significantly reducing MTTK (Mean Time to Knowledge). TechValidate, the premier “voice of customer” researcher, discovered that NETSCOUT’s Adaptive Service Intelligence (ASI) technology reduced MTTK by 80 percent or more and decreased operational expenses. What’s more, the patented ASI technology delivered exceptional ROI results for customers including an increase in quality of end-user experience and improved IT staff productivity.
The UC landscape is broad and deep with problems that can be trivial to highly complex, ranging from an incorrectly configured microphone used with a Jabber service to SIP failures between Subscriber Server and IM and Presence Server to degraded MOS (packet loss) due to QoS mismatch. From NetOps to Voice Ops to Systems, time-sensitive actionable intelligence is required to reduce the tangible risks associated with UC service downtime and to allow organizations to compete and innovate with confidence.
About the Author: Ron Lifton is currently a Senior Solutions Marketing Manager at NETSCOUT. Prior to NETSCOUT, Ron headed product management for a cyber-security platform that applies machine learning and behavioral analytics to network traffic flows. He has previously held senior marketing positions within Cisco and specifically for network management solutions. He was an executive at a start-up focused on QoS policy management acquired by Cisco.