Cost and complexity have long been sticking points for enterprises that want to deploy branch office network monitoring probes across their wide area networks (WANs). Network management vendor NetScout thinks it may have solved that problem, at least for customers who use its nGenius Service Assurance platform and Cisco's Integrated Services Router (ISR).
NetScout has announced a software-based branch office network monitoring probe, the nGenius Integrated Agent, which is embedded in the service module of Cisco's extremely popular ISR product line. The software-based probe is a cheap, simple alternative to the hardware probes NetScout traditionally sells for its networking monitoring products, which can cost about $25,000 each, according to NetScout vice president of marketing Steve Shalita. An enterprise with more than 500 branch offices simply won't be able to spend that much money instrumenting each branch office network, let alone be able to devote the resources necessary to support all that additional hardware. NetScout's new software-based branch office network monitoring probe is about 25% cheaper, Shalita said.
In the past, deploying branch office network monitoring probes wasn't an issue for enterprises because network performance monitoring wasn't as critical. The WAN was primarily moving data back and forth between the branch office and the corporate or regional headquarters, and most client-server applications lived in the branch office network in a local server room. But times are changing.
Enterprises are consolidating branch-based applications into central data centers in order to reduce their operational costs, said Bob Laliberte, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group. Many local network services applications might reside on a local, consolidated appliance like Cisco's ISR, but many other corporate applications will be centralized in the data centers.
"I was talking to one [infrastructure manager] recently who told me it cost him about $10,000 per year for every server he had in a remote office," Laliberte said. "That's why we're seeing vendors produce products like the Integrated Services Router and Riverbed's Steelhead appliance, where you can load up as many applications and services on one box as possible, cutting down on power and cooling and maintenance. The more you can shrink the footprint [of infrastructure] in the branch, the happier the enterprise is going to be."
Successful consolidation of branch office applications in data centers requires good branch office network performance monitoring capabilities. Branch employees who were accustomed to local applications on a local server won't tolerate severe latency post-consolidation. Nor should they, since it will kill productivity.
"One of the key things to doing [consolidation in the data center] is ensuring that performance is going to be as good or hopefully at least not too badly degraded," Laliberte said. "There are all these techniques to ensure that, such as WAN optimization. This NetScout product will enable enterprises from a centralized location to monitor what is going on in those branch offices so that they can proactively identify any performance issues and correct them before users complain."
NetScout's product isn't the only option on the market right now, however...
Continue this article to learn about other branch office network monitoring options for your enterprise.