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Networking
Networking

The Definitive Guide to Converged Network Management

by Ken Camp

SYNOPSIS

The convergence of voice and data networks has been evolving and gaining momentum for several years. Organizations are implementing VoIP in an effort to cut communications costs or leverage the competitive advantage of integrated services. VoIP implementers focus on issues of voice quality, and interoperability – important factors in the delivery of Quality of Service (QoS). In the integrated services environment, voice security needs to be treated as data security. And data security needs to be treated as voice security.

The Definitive Guide to Converged Network Management highlights the overall service management challenges facing enterprise and identify common industry best practices for effectively managing an integrated, unified communications environment using VoIP. It offers a series of systematic and holistic techniques for managing the total integrated network to ensure a consistent service delivery and support for ongoing business operations.


CHAPTER PREVIEWS

Chapter 1: Introduction to Unifying Network Management and Converged IP Communications

The convergence of voice and data networks has been evolving and gaining momentum for several years. Although networks today have not converged, they are moving toward convergence in several ways. Many organizations are implementing Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) in an effort to cut communications costs or leverage the competitive advantage of integrated services, and VoIP implementers often focus on voice quality and interoperability—important factors in the delivery of Quality of Service (QoS). However, convergence really means much more than that.

Today, converging networks and net-centric applications are changing everything about network management. Network administrators need to manage and monitor a wide variety of network elements. They have to understand more complex network events and respond more quickly than ever. Effective management for these integrated network technologies—data, voice, video, wireless, and so forth—is crucial to network operations. This guide will highlight the overall service management challenges facing enterprise business and identify common industry best practices for effectively managing an integrated, unified communications environment using VoIP. It will offer a series of systematic and holistic techniques for managing the total integrated network to ensure consistent service delivery and support for ongoing business operations.

The term convergence is generally used in reference to the integration of telephony with data services and applications as well as video onto a single network. This single network is frequently assumed to be the Internet, but the convergence of services is bringing voice and data networks closer together in many ways. These technologies all used dedicated, separate resources in the past but can now share resources and interact with each other, creating new efficiencies for business.

The IP data network is evolving much further than just VoIP. Video technologies are blending and overlapping VoIP. Video VoIP (VVoIP) is becoming an accepted business service. With new operating system (OS) evolutions ahead and increased difficulty in air travel, many businesses are seriously exploring video collaboration as an alternative approach to traditional travel.

Beyond video, mobility is a prime business consideration in today’s business environment. The evolution of wireless technologies to broadband services increased productivity for mobile workers. Another looming aspect of convergence is the convergence of the wired enterprise data network with the wireless cellular networks. This fixed mobile convergence (FMC) will surely add momentum as the technologies and handsets mature.

A trend is underway in which voice and data communications are merging. The irresistible logic is that digitized voice is just another kind of data, so why not carry it on the same data links that handle all your other ones and zeros? The economies of convergence can be considerable—there is no need to build and support separate voice and data infrastructures when you can have just one. That combination of infrastructures presents the problem that convergence aims to solve: data people, who haven’t worried about voice in the past, have to worry about it now. Similarly, people who used to specialize exclusively in switched voice circuits must adapt to the new environment.

From enterprise business to small business to consumer, the end user doesn’t care what network delivers services. The ability to work from any single device, anywhere, any time is more in demand today than ever in history. This chapter will review the broad aspects and implications of convergence in several forms.


Chapter 2: Key Considerations in Effective Voice and Data Integration for a Changing IT/IP Landscape

The integration or convergence of voice, video, and data can provide a business with a competitive edge when effectively implemented. There are several business models and operating environments that present opportunities for strategic consideration when planning for this change. The key factors for success involve leveraging the integrated features to provide the greatest support for existing processes.

This chapter will look first at high-level business models and processes that are often impacted by service convergence. Later, the chapter will delve into the issues of call quality that affect every organization implementing an integrated service solution. Quality is often the single biggest factor in a successful implementation, so this chapter will explore a variety of approaches for delivering total quality network services, with a focus on integrated VoIP.

Quantifiable Business Processes

Business crosses a wide array of sectors, each having unique business requirements to support aspects of the core business. Call centers may play a central role for many businesses, particularly those in financial services, insurance, or travel. They also play a key role in many other sectors as smaller customer support teams. Interactive voice response (IVR) systems are frequently automated to reduce the requirement for staffing and provide information to customers. Computer telephony integration (CTI) isn’t a new concept with the deployment of VoIP, but in many cases, it becomes easier. CTI may provide levels of service and application integration previously outside the financial grasp of some organizations.

Web-Centric Businesses

In addition to the traditional sectors of business, the integration of the Internet has heightened awareness of four distinct business models in the Web-centric world of e-business. Some of these models fit with large enterprise; others are more amenable to small business and have been used by many an e-business startup company.

In the open market model, anyone can be a buyer, and anyone can be a seller. There’s no centralized control, and minimal trust involved. There isn’t particularly high value to integration of enterprise systems because relationships may be ephemeral. Market leadership for these e-businesses requires being in the right place at the right time, with the right solution at the right price. OASIS and eBay are good examples of the open market business model.

The alliance model is more common in larger businesses. It embraces a distributed corporate environment with multiple leaders of the pack. The goal of these alliances is frequently optimization of specific solutions to solve identified customer problems. Alliances are often formed among the best and brightest in their respective fields. High levels of integration in services and applications between partners bring tremendous value to an alliance. Sun, IBM, Oracle, and Netscape demonstrate this model via the Java Alliance.

The aggregation model is typically adopted by the leader in a business sector. The aggregator positions itself between producers and consumers, providing access to products. Integration with consumers may be low, but integration with the producers and internally across the aggregator enterprise can add very high value. Wal-Mart represents a perfect example of this model.

The value chain model is adopted by most businesses. Every business is, in some facet, the leader of the pack in its’ particular sector. Process optimization within the enterprise is crucial to business success. The leader focuses on optimizing the value chain through service and application integration rather than aggregating buyers and sellers. Cisco Systems, Dell, and Amazon represent value chain leaders in the world of e-business.


Chapter 3: Business Drivers and Justification

In business, there are many factors to consider when addressing the shift in networking paradigms to bring about what many today call Web 2.0 integration. Even the phrase “Web 2.0” has spun off variations like Voice 2.0 and Office 2.0. The next generation of network-centric solutions is a key business driver today.

In the earlier days of these technologies, convergence was viewed as a cost-reduction technique for business. Although cost reduction is important and remains a driving factor, it has become a minor factor in voice and data integration for many businesses. For large enterprises, convergence brings about a unified, single-network bill from the carrier. Integrating voice and data can lead to consolidation of staff as telephony and data services converge onto a single infrastructure. This early driver has proven a factor only in the largest of enterprises.

Today, what integration brings about is a competitive edge. And sometimes it brings revenue to the bottom line because it enables new revenue streams that couldn’t be fully captured in the past. VoIP services coupled with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools in business bring responsiveness, speed, and knowledge about customers that can provide a measurable differentiator in customer service delivery. Years ago, Bill Gates articulated a strategy of business knowledge being central to a company’s digital nervous system. Today, service integration couples knowledge with responsiveness to deliver business solutions more quickly than ever.

Convergence of voice and data tightly couples business intelligence with business relationships. The real success of Web 2.0 lies not in technology alone but in integrated, comprehensive business services. Chapter 2 looked at some of the technology drivers for convergence. Building on that foundation, this chapter will explore business motivations for service integration and how they may mirror the technological drivers.

Vertical Market Business Drivers for Change

In his book Telecosm, George Guilder coined the phrase disruptive technologies. In the telecommunications industry as a whole, there have been many disruption points, including the migration from circuit-switched technologies to packet-switching and advances in optical networking in the core and broadband access technologies such as DSL, cable, and EVDO wireless broadband services.

Let’s take a brief look at disruptive technologies and variations that aren’t directly related to unified communications. Technology change enables business process change, but these changes often occur at different rates. The adoption cycle for new technologies is fueled by success stories of early adopters. In the Internet today, how you learn about new technologies, advances in existing methods, and the success stories that drive business process has changed.


Chapter 4: Productivity Advantages of Unified Communications

In years past, cost reduction was a primary driver for integrating services. Convergence was seen as a cost reduction enabler first and foremost. As companies worked to consolidate to a single cable plant, voice and data converged onto one Cat5 or Cat6 wiring infrastructure. Further consolidation to a single wide area network (WAN) circuit infrastructure based on IP has slowly followed. In practice, cost reduction has proven to be a secondary benefit. The real benefit to converged communications is in productivity gains and as an enabler of new business operations. Although process re-engineering itself can be a major effort, convergence further strengthens the competitive edge of increased efficiency and productivity.

This chapter will extend the reach of unified communications beyond cost into specific business areas and interests. It will provide real world examples of how business operations and industry segments can realize tangible productivity gains, and will not only touch on the current convergence of data, voice, and video but also see how they set the stage for other advances coming to the converged network.

Worker productivity will rise and fall with the integration of data, voice, and video communications. This natural ebb and flow is representative of gradual process changes coupled with workers overcoming the learning curve as they adapt work habits to best utilize new tools and resources. It’s important to remember that basic telephone usage is something very natural to working adults. It’s something learned at a fairly young age. In the workplace, changing how people work—how they use the telephone—will have unexpected impacts. For example, a sales team that has been working from individual PC-based contact calling programs such as Act! or Goldmine will encounter a learning and adaptation curve with the enterprise shifts to a company-wide Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system with Sales Force Automation (SFA) features. The work paradigm changes dramatically. This paradigm shift provides the catalyst for a change in corporate culture within the organization.

Convergence is a buzzword that has garnered a lot of play in the past 8 years or so, but convergence means many different things, all of which apply to the enterprise:

  • Network convergence is really the first phase of a long evolutionary process. Converging voice and data onto a single infrastructure provides opportunities to reduce operating expenses (OPEX). It reduces billing complexity with service providers. It provides for early workforce consolidation. It sets the stage.
  • Service and application convergence is the hot topic of the market today. The idea of a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), or deploying Software as a Service (SaaS) on the network, sets the stage for radical change in how work gets done. This convergence of data, voice, and video as services, coupled with the convergence of applications as services on the enterprise network, completely changes the basic steps and procedures of performing even some of the most basic work tasks throughout the day.
  • Many organizations employ convergence between the telephone set and the desktop PC. Desktop real estate is at a premium for workers in the information economy, and the ability to use a single device on the desktop for all communications activity provides new integration enabling new workflow efficiencies.
  • Further evolution in fixed mobile convergence will more tightly couple the telephone, the mobile phone or PDA, and the desktop workstation, providing a convergence that offers device independence with the freedom of mobility and choice of the best available device for communications at a given point in time.

How Service Convergence Drives Productivity and Enables New Business Operational Processes

Service convergence as a productivity enabler has become a root motivator for many companies pursuing unified networks. It’s important that organizations not pursue new technologies in unified communications solely for the sake of their novelty. The key for any enterprise is how the convergence of the network supports the established business strategies.

As unified communications technologies develop, companies around the world are discovering innovative business benefits provided by unifying data, voice, and video onto a single service infrastructure. High-level business processes can be heavily impacted by convergence, underscoring the reality that convergence is far more than cost consolidation of multiple, separate networks.


Chapter 5: Key Steps in VoIP Deployment and Management for the Enterprise

Different applications have different requirements. The introduction of voice and streaming video onto the existing IP network presents a completely new set of requirements to the operational performance envelope of the network. This chapter will examine the importance of assessing the readiness of the network and fully evaluating design considerations related to delivering integrated service in the enterprise. To address new service integration, the chapter will explore a methodology, called the “performance envelope,” for mapping the characteristics of the corporate network.

Network Readiness Assessment

As businesses delve into VoIP and video solutions in the enterprise, their focus is on business drivers. For many companies, cost reduction is a key business driver for convergence. Cost cannot be the only driver, and for practical purposes, shouldn’t be the primary driver. It’s important to set reasonable expectations and to fully understand all the business drivers behind service integration. A new application service or an integrated VoIP and CRM solution will require consideration of very different factors than cost reduction alone. It’s vital to fully understand the business motivation for converging video, voice, and data so that the project planning and implementation teams can address the true success factors when mapping out project milestones. Communicating the objectives clearly with everyone involved helps maintain a clear view of the expected results.

Ensuring Network Readiness for Converged Services

Ensuring network readiness is a significant task and not to be taken lightly. Over the past 4 or 5 years, both VoIP vendors and systems integrators have learned the hard lesson of failure because of inadequate preparation and planning. The existing data network has been optimized over time to support the existing business requirements. As new applications and services are added, network tuning takes place and a variety of parameters are often tweaked. Historically, these optimization efforts have been driven by packet data applications such as CRM, ERP, and Web services solutions—“normal” IP applications. Voice and video present new challenges as they add streaming, real-time traffic to an existing service network. VoIP call quality requires low latency in the network. Jitter needs to be low, and to avoid complicated jitter buffering requirements, it needs to be consistent. Bandwidth and packet loss need to support the new, integrated services.

Testing and documenting the parameters and characteristics of the existing networks before extensive planning will help ensure the network is capable of supporting VoIP, video, or both. It’s important to understand aspects of the traffic needed to support all the different service types that will coexist on the new network. Traffic types, frame size, prioritization schemes for quality of service (QoS), jitter, latency, and packet loss are all crucial factors. Because consistent network performance is so important, it’s also prudent to evaluate utilization in the network both at peak and normal times.


Chapter 6: Impact Analysis, Root Cause, and Event Correlation

To conduct full impact and root cause analysis, event correlation engines are often used to provide data about what happened. This chapter begins by building an understanding of protocols involved, examining their strengths and weaknesses. Key protocols include Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) tools, and even Network Time Protocol (NTP) for effective event correlation.

Beyond protocols, the chapter will explore syslog. Syslog servers provide a part of the picture, but they really provide data collection mechanisms, not analysis engines. Correlating events across an enterprise network of disparate systems presents a difficult challenge.

In Business @ the Speed of Thought (ISBN: 0446525685), Bill Gates described what he called the “digital nervous system.” He said, “The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competition...is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose.” When deploying converged networks over IP, you’re integrating voice technology with the critical data infrastructure. Building monitoring and management processes into daily network operations provides the information, or knowledge base, about the corporate nervous system that lets you manage a complex, almost organic, business operating environment. Your management and monitoring tools become a key part of your enterprise business intelligence.

SNMP

SNMP is a widely used protocol for monitoring the health and well-being of a network. It’s a simple, text-based protocol that uses a database called a management information base (MIB) to describe network device management data. Almost all network elements are SMNP-enabled. Most equipment comes from the manufacturer with the community strings of public and private enabled by default. Typically the public string provides read-only access. The private community string often provides write access also, and is often used for managing devices remotely and “pushing” updated configurations to routers and switches across the network.

SNMP was designed to ease monitoring and remote management of network elements. These include servers, routers, switches, and even workstations. It can provide monitoring for performance, utilization, and state information about the device. SNMP uses what are called “traps” to capture this information, which is then often passed on to a centralized management station in a network control center. These stations typically provide network maps, with icons representing each node being monitored. In many systems, a simple green-yellow-red icon allows easy monitoring of network element status from healthy and operational (green) to potential problems (yellow) to out of service (red) conditions.

What Is a MIB?

The MIB is a type of database, comprising a set of objects used to manage individual network elements. MIBs are structured based on the OSI/ISO network management model. In the public switched telephone network (PSTN), Abstract Notation One (ASN.1) has been used for years as a mechanism for describing the object data structure of that network’s elements. The PSTN elements include things like Class-5 central office switches, carrier trunking technologies, and the SS7 signaling network elements. ASN.1 was jointly developed by the ISO and the ITU-T in 1984. Today’s network MIBs are developed as a subset of this larger standard. This subset is defined in IETF RFC 2578.


Chapter 7: Effective Service Availability Management and Capacity Planning

Life cycle management is crucial to the sustainability of any network. Deploying data voice and video services is all well and good, but long-term success requires a repeatable methodology for consistent measurement and planning. This chapter takes a look at an approach that has been used for many years in the legacy telecommunications industry called FCAPS. The name is an acronym for fault, configuration, accounting, performance, and security management. We look at FCAPS because it has been tightly coupled with managing large voice and data networks for many years. Later, the chapter will touch briefly on the IT Information Library and the ITIL framework. These two well-know methodologies dovetail nicely as a foundation for managing the life cycle of the network.

This chapter will delve into availability management, network optimization, and capacity planning issues as the primary focal point. We’ll explore these areas using the FCAPS model as a base for methodical techniques in delivering integrated services.

Network optimization is a vital part of life cycle management. Optimization supports both availability management and capacity planning. It’s an ongoing process and aids in keeping network costs in check. Network optimization can also help in managing the demands of business users, who might be rapidly stretching the capabilities or capacity of the network as they deploy new applications. Optimization includes trending, capacity planning, and ongoing minimization of infrastructure costs. By decommissioning legacy services as they are no longer needed and continually monitoring and maximizing the success rate of data voice and video sessions, we are, in a sense, future proofing the network. This holistic approach to network management also provides investment protection by continually evaluating network performance and service delivery throughout the entire life of the network, maximizing the usable life of equipment and leveraging technologies for full value.

Managing the life cycle includes continuous evaluation of both the return on investment (ROI) and the return on effort (ROE). An important part of this process is being able to perform all the following:

  • Maximize business potential through performance and availability management
  • Learn to decipher results from performance and availability testing
  • Use lessons learned from testing to better utilize system resources; this includes assessing capacity and application upgrade needs
  • Recognize the risk factors of not testing network applications and capacity, including slowdowns in network response time for your customers or users
  • Learn how to monitor, analyze, and prioritize your business and network management needs to ensure a responsive suite of converged data, voice, and video services
  • Prepare for the convergence of performance and availability management

These skills often aren’t put to use as part of the general IT staff’s daily routine. These tasks may actually dilute the focus of the IT group from the daily core business and operational requirements. Balance is crucial so that no single aspect of service delivery, management, or assessment consumes excessive resources. These resources are often viewed as network resources, but the human brainpower and time resources must also be taken into consideration.
Comprehensive network management requires the effective use of people and resources, business processes, technology tools, and products, vendors, and service providers. It’s a never-ending effort to provide reliable and consistent service levels for an array of converged services to meet end user and customer expectations.


Chapter 8: Effective Network Configuration, Network Fault, and Network Performance Management

Chapter 7 introduced the FCAPS model and examined service availability and capacity planning management. This chapter will continue that theme of using a methodology for consistent management of network faults or problems, configuration of network devices, and performance.

Network management means different things to different people. For some organizations, it simply means a network consultant is monitoring network activity with some tool. In larger enterprises, network management involves continuous polling of network devices to monitor status, distributed databases containing logs and error reports, and graphical representations of the network topology to present a high-level view of the overall health condition of the network. All network management can be viewed as a service that uses tools, devices, and software applications to assist network managers in monitoring and maintaining the quality of service (QoS) being provided.

Fault Management

As a part of holistic network management, fault management is the term used to describe the set of tools and functions used to detect and isolate and then remediate problems in the service network. These malfunctions may be technical, such as equipment failures, or caused by human error. The central theme is that something failed in the network. Fault management sometimes includes environmental control systems or monitoring.

Faults are detected through monitoring system events. In many organizations, event monitoring occurs in three ways:

  • The Network Management System (NMS) in an enterprise command center monitors the status and health of network elements. Often an icon representing an element in the network will simply turn from green to red, indicating a problem. The NMS typically also functions as a fault management system.
  • Event correlation and analysis systems are designed to process syslog and event log files from a number of systems. Many of these systems include an engine for detecting anomalies as part of event correlation.
  • Human analysis, while often effective, is also inefficient. The sheer volume of log data generated in large networks makes human analysis impractical for many purposes. Yet when network performance issues arise, most groups have people begin to review logs. Humans apply different logic than NMS and event correlation engines apply, and may of those systems spot trends, patterns, or unique items that fall below automated thresholds.

When a failure or fault occurs, elements of the network send information about the problem to the NMS. SNMP is widely used for this purpose. Elements transmit alarm information or indicators. These alarm indicators remain in alert state until the error condition or problem is fixed.


Chapter 9: Effective Security Management

The convergence of voice, video, and data networks has been evolving and gaining momentum for the past several years. Many organizations have undertaken VoIP implementation to converge networks for cost reduction. Others work to achieve the competitive advantage of integrated services. Whatever the reason for network service integration, you cannot overlook the security risks that arise as technologies converge. VoIP implementers often focus on issues of voice quality, and interoperability. These are truly important factors in the delivery of voice services. In many ways inside the converged service network, voice security needs to be treated as data security. And data security needs to be treated as voice security. Both technologies bring issues and management techniques that benefit the other. This chapter will highlight security management issues facing enterprise deployments today and identify common industry best practices for creating an effective and comprehensive security plan that balances securing the network against the VoIP requirements for availability, reliability, and performance.

Security methods can adversely impact network performance. Firewalls induce delay by inspecting each packet in the data stream. This will add delay to packet delivery. Congestion at the firewall can lead to variable processing time within the firewall. This will increase the problem of jitter. A systematic and holistic approach to managing integrated network performance and security includes working with vendors, services providers, and trusted business partners to ensure a comprehensive approach to security is followed.

As previous chapters illustrate, successful operations are driven by knowledge and information. The more you know about the network, the better you're able to analyze problems. Solid knowledge and understanding of the network leads to an approach that balances all aspects of network management. Building this base knowledge helps you effectively manage the entire life cycle of network services and applications to ensure you're delivering the services needed today and able to meet the needs of tomorrow.


Chapter 10: Asset Reporting, Audit Compliance and IT Documentation

This final chapter will explore asset and audit compliance methods and procedures. They’re the last component of the FCAPS model. As this guide comes to a close, it will examine why documenting IT process is critical to business operations. Earlier chapters have made brief mention of approaches such as ITIL and ISO 17799 as best practice methodologies. This chapter will probe into those a bit deeper.

For many enterprises, regulatory requirements to comply with SOX, GLBA, and HIPAA raise concerns about the impact on managing an integrated service network with VoIP. This chapter will close with a review of managing the network life cycle with an eye toward holistic risk management.

FCAPS and Asset/Administration/Accounting Management

Accounting/Administration/Asset Management

In the commercial services market, whether delivering traditional telephony services or enhanced VoIP services, accounting becomes vital to successful service delivery. A Call Detail Record (CDR) in telecommunications contains information about system usage. This includes the identities of call originators, the identities of call recipients, call duration, any billing information about the call, information about time used during the billing period, and other usage-related information.