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Packet Design Studies VPNs

Packet Design Inc. , the makers of the Route Explorer product that helps carriers analyze the traffic flowing through their networks, now has a product that extends that capability to VPNs. (See Packet Design Adds Product.)

In recent years, enterprise carrier networks have not only become more complicated but also more spread out. With remote users increasing in numbers, the use of VPNs has become more frequent, igniting demand for a product that can analyze the traffic flowing through them.

Packet Design's new VPN Traffic Explorer extends the abilities of Route Explorer by giving service providers a view of exactly how traffic is moving throughout the network, letting them troubleshoot problems within minutes.

"The key aspect is the concept of reachability," says Jeff Raice, executive vice president of marketing and business development for Packet Design. "If I'm a service provider it means that I can make sure that the IP addresses from each of that customer's sites are properly exchanged. We'll actually give them a list of their customers, and it will show them how each customer is connected through their network."

Most traditional traffic analysis methods merely take "snapshots" of individual network nodes, according to Raice. This style of traffic monitoring doesn’t give carriers a full picture of what is going on in the network. Finding the source of an outage can take hours, he says, as carriers need to find the problem using guesswork initially.

Raice claims that the VPN Traffic Explorer understands a carrier's network so well that it can predict what will happen in the future. "You can project traffic to a future date. So for every link in your network, it can tell you in a table when each of those links will reach, for example, 75 percent utilization, and can therefore predict exactly when you'll need network upgrades."

For a product that produces such a big picture of what is happening in a carrier network, the VPN Traffic Explorer requires a very small deployment. It starts with a piece called simply the VPN Explorer, one box that can be placed anywhere in the network's edge and is the device that extends Route Explorer's capabilities to the VPNs. Carriers then add typically two to 10 Flow Recorders along the perimeter of the core network. These devices aggregate and analyze the traffic flow data. Finally, the Flow Analyzer makes the actual diagnosis of what all the traffic data means.

Packet Design has been deploying its older Route Explorer product since 2003. (See Packet Design's Routing 'Spy' .) It has sold this product to more than 270 large carriers and enterprises including major service providers on the planet like Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), and Orange (NYSE: FTE).

Its new VPN Traffic Explorer will cost about $300,000 for an entry-level configuration.

— Raymond McConville, Reporter, Light Reading

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