When testing met analytics: A love story
There was a time when network testing and monitoring was all about setting some network probes, responding to alarms and getting out in the field with the protocol analyzer weapon of choice.
Of course that’s over-simplistic, but you get the idea. In the TDM and more circuit-based data worlds of the past, testing and monitoring was all about keeping those circuits up and running at the very highest levels. And service providers kept their core product – the network – performing better (five-nines) then almost any other industry on the planet.
That job has become even more challenging on today’s more IP- and Ethernet-based networks. And it’s also become a bit different.
For starters, today’s test and monitoring vendors all talk about – and service providers are demanding – a more service-aware view of the network. And that means testing and monitoring tools that can both emulate real services to test how ready the network is to handle them, as well get feedback on the performance quality and service levels of customer services and applications running live on the network.
So, as we’ve written about extensively lately: Service assurance is getting hotter.
In recent weeks and months, vendors including Empirix (Empirix LTE assurance play balances network, user experience); Sunrise Telecom (Testing multiple DSL flavors on a single handheld); Exfo (Exfo continuing down 4G radio/IP monitoring path); Teketronix (Tektronix tool lets telco teams guarantee IP performance); and others have talked about this trend in great detail.
A handful of points stand out. Network monitoring and testing today is all about assuring the services that run over the network. Platform and tool purchases are being evaluated not just by the network group, but the business side as well, which not only wants to assure services but get access to service and customer usage data. The performance of networks and services are being watched higher “up the network stack” and measured against key performance indicators much more attuned to the business needs than just "Is a network circuit up or down?"
All of this came to mind as I noticed today that Empirix launched a new solution on top of its Hammer service assurance platform, dubbed xCentrix, specifically focused on giving service providers access to an analytics tool and dashboard driven by network performance data.
Granted, business intelligence and analytics tools are hardly new in the telco market. But building those capabilities so tightly into a test and monitoring platform just emphasizes the trends we discussed earlier: linking network performance to customer satisfaction; moving the analysis of network data up the c-level food chain; and using performance data not just to keep the network up and running, but as a bread crumb trail to help the business side sell more and better services while keeping customers happier and more loath to churn away to a competitor.
Which makes both the tools that test and monitor today’s IP networks, as well as the people running them, more strategic and vital then ever.
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© 2013 Penton Media Inc.