Cisco adds monitoring to WAAS

Cisco and NetQoS have paired up to add more visibility to WAAS WAN optimization.

Cisco this week released key updates to its Wide Area Application Services (WAAS), partnering with NetQoS for better visibility into how applications are performing over the WAN.

At Cisco Networkers, the networking giant's annual user conference, Cisco announced a partnership with NetQoS to provide end-to-end visibility and application monitoring of applications traversing the WAN. Adding metrics from NetQoS illustrates application response time, application data rates, link utilization and protocol breakdowns before and after optimization so networking and applications pros can see how traffic is performing on the WAN.

According to Steve Fulton, senior director of strategic alliances for NetQoS, companies are struggling to get the most out of their WAN optimization deployments but are lacking a way to measure applications' end-to-end performance. Most WAN optimization tools measure TCP application response time and other metrics in segments -- the client, WAN and server segments -- which can be misleading as to what true response time is. The client segment shows the transaction time, or end-user experience, while the WAN segment shows the network roundtrip time, or latency. The server segment shows server response time and back-tier performance.

Fulton said the Cisco partnership will integrate NetQoS monitoring capabilities into every WAAS device, the Wide Area Application Engines (WAE) and Wide Area Application Engine Network Modules (NM-WAE) to look at application information before and after it is optimized by WAAS.

The integrated software on Cisco WAAS devices will export TCP header information before optimization occurs to NetQoS SuperAgent, allowingWAAS and NetQoS customers to quantify response time improvements, improve troubleshooting, and deliver constant and improved application delivery.

To measure traffic flow improvements from Cisco WAAS, the two vendors will also market the NetQoS ReporterAnalyzer, a traffic analysis module that reports on Cisco IOS NetFlow statistics. According to Cisco, WAAS provides compliance with network-based NetFlow collection and export and does not impede the ability to see traffic composition before and after WAN optimization is applied.

Dr. Issy Ben-Shaul, CTO of Cisco's Application Delivery Business Unit, said: "Cisco WAAS integrates transparently with customers' networks, and the management interface we have developed with NetQoS extends that transparency to performance reporting data, giving our customers accurate insight into how to best leverage our technology to maximize application performance and remote user productivity."

The Cisco-NetQoS pairing illustrates and validates WAN optimization results. It also lets users identify and prioritize the network segments and applications that will benefit from WAN optimization; obtain before-and-after measurements for WAN optimization pilot testing; determine optimization's impact on application performance and data volume across WAN segments and in the data center; troubleshoot problems after deploying WAN optimization; and calculate the ROI of WAN optimization deployments.

"Without this, customers were using a stopwatch for their [WAN optimization] rollout or relying on somewhat inaccurate information," Fulton said. "It was a band-aid approach to a bullet wound."

Burton Group senior analyst Eric Siegel said adding monitoring capabilities into WAAS allows WAN optimization problems to be detected immediately, before users find out, creating end-to-end visibility. He said simply measuring response inside just the data center, instead of end-to-end, offered very little ability to resolve issues.

In addition, Siegel said, identifying optimization problems early allows for a sort of triage, where responsibility for a problem can be determined.

"With this kind of measurement, you can see if it's the network, the server or the application," he said. NetQoS adds that capability into the WAAS device, to identify whether the issue is between the box and the server or between the box and the user, or whether it's the WAN connecting the boxes.

"It's good to know really quickly what's going on, so you can know if you're really screwed; otherwise it's a couple of hours before you know for sure," Siegel said.

Frank Kist, acting CIO of SRA International Inc., a provider of technology and strategic consulting services, said he has WAAS deployed at 45 sites from coast to coast and sees a 25% reduction in response time with TCP and CIFS traffic. However, Kist said he lacks the ability to see through WAAS traffic for more detailed performance metrics.

For Kist, visibility boils down to ROI. WAAS lets him reduce bandwidth and get better application response time, which also helps him meet SLAs. Being able to better understand WAN optimization performance, he said, will let him know how specific applications and protocols are performing while also helping him uncover bottlenecks that could be hindering response times.

"The management interface from Cisco and NetQoS will allow us to accurately measure end-to-end application response time and WAN utilization," Kist said. "With this additional analysis, we can report precisely the performance, productivity and ROI benefits delivered by Cisco WAAS."

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