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Root-Cause Troubleshooting the InteropNet Network

InteropNet: Testing the Boundaries of a Multi-Vendor, Converged Network

This year, PathSolutions was selected to help power InteropNet. The InteropNet is the cornerstone of Interop Las Vegas, supplying more than 10,000 attendees and 300 exhibitors with the most reliable, high-speed network throughout the entire conference center. It is also the premier example of how to design, deploy, and manage a multi-vendor, converged network.

The InteropNet network is large and complex, a multi-vendor network that has to be assembled, configured, and deployed onsite in less than four days.  It not only tests the interoperability between the different vendor products but is designed to showcase the latest technologies in a secure environment as the show also attracts hackers.

Of course, work begins on the InteropNet long before the start of Interop. The InteropNet NOC team—made up of the Sponsor Vendors and Volunteer Team Members (ITMs)—begins work via conference calls and online collaboration. Once the planning stage is completed, the entire infrastructure (hardware and software) is then built out on the Hot Stage, a warehouse located in Brisbane, CA. While there, it goes through a rigorous series of performance testing to ensure that it can operate successfully within the confines of the Interop site from both an infrastructure and performance perspective. Finally, it is broken down and transported to Interop’s Las Vegas site where it is re-assembled and tested—all within four days. From May 7 through May 9, the InteropNet is Interop’s technological backbone and is a testament to the skills of the team that helped design and build it as well as the power and interoperability of all the products that support it.

PathSolutions Role: Monitoring the Performance of the InteropNet

We were invited to be part of the NOC to assist with network troubleshooting and performance monitoring. By any definition, setting up the InteropNet is a daunting task but for us, the network monitoring piece was easy to set up, deploy, and manage.

Fast Installation and Deployment Helps to Quickly Resolve Problems

In keeping with our philosophy of delivering Total Network Visibility®, our software was installed and configured to monitor the Hot Stage’s InteropNet network in twelve minutes. At that point, PathSolutions identified packet losses on some interfaces and the NOC team was able to quickly address and resolve those issues.

Easy Reconfiguration Aids the Hot Stage InteropNet Build Out

During Hot Stage, the network design is highly dynamic and changes on an almost daily basis. This can be equally exhausting and exhilarating. From a monitoring perspective, keeping up with those changes can be very difficult.  However, PathSolutions automated reconfiguration feature enabled us to rapidly re-discover how the network was connected as well as discover new devices.  As a result, as the InteropNet infrastructure changed, PathSolutions was able to quickly recognize those changes—saving all of the NOC team (myself included) valuable troubleshooting time.

Intuitive Interface Translates into Low Training Overhead

The NOC is made up of a large support staff of senior-level network folks that support the InteropNet network both at Hot Stage and during the show.  Since our software was designed for network engineers by network engineers, its intuitive interface made it easy for NOC members to use.  As a result, it became the go-to solution for identifying all layer-1, layer-2, or layer-3 problems in the InteropNet network.

Breadth & Depth of Coverage Aids Error Discovery and Resolution

Our software is configured to monitor the health, performance, and status of every link, switch, and router in the InteropNet.  It queries 18 error counters (more than any other monitoring package) from every link so packet loss can be identified no matter what the source or cause. As a result, the Interop NOC team is able to get more root-cause problems identified (such as bad cabling, duplex mismatches, VLAN tagging problems, etc.) and resolved due to the intelligent analysis of information coming from the network equipment. This significantly reduces the time spent troubleshooting.

Low Overhead Saves Money and Resources

The entire InteropNet network is being monitored with a single low-end server, a single-core processor, and 4 GB of RAM.  As a result, expensive server hardware or a bunch of remote agents are not necessary—saving money and resources.

See It In Action in the NOC or at Booth #743

To see PathSolutions software in action, take a look at it running in the NOC.  It is also running on a low-end netbook in our booth (located to the side of the display computer) and is configured to monitor the entire show network.  Both demos illustrate how, with very little hardware, PathSolutions software can disclose more information on the network than any other offering.

If you’re at Interop 2013 in Las Vegas this year, please stop by our booth. We’d be happy to show you how we’re monitoring the InteropNet network as well as talk about your specific network troubleshooting issues—the most common question I get is how to determine the root-cause of a network problem. This can be very difficult to do but our solutions make it easy!

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