Automating Diagnostics Using SDN

31 Jan 2016

In my last article I talked about the value of a Migration Strategy for Automating Quality of Experience (QoE) using SDN. I am very thrilled to announce that the International Multimedia Teleconferencing Consortium (IMTC) just released a brand new use case called Automating Diagnostics Using SDN.

Today's Unified Communication and Collaboration (UC&C) systems are critically dependent on the underlying network to provide a high quality of experience to end-users. While most data applications are quite tolerant of network delays and can recover just fine from intermittent packet loss, real-time communication has much stricter network requirements since it involves human two-way interactions, and issues like latency and packet loss can have a significant effect on the end-user experience. Think about how often users experience a poor quality voice or video session and then blame the UC&C application, when it was really the network causing the issues. Modern, real-time codecs try their best to recover from network impairments, but there is only so much an application can do when the network becomes congested or slows down.

The automated diagnostics SDN use case from IMTC describes how to automate root cause analysis without requiring highly trained IT admins, complex diagnostic tools or costly probes everywhere. It does this by correlating detailed per-session UC&C metrics with network topology information and using analytics to figure out why and where a call went bad. Not only can it help pinpoint specific network segments responsible for a poor call, but it can also help diagnose end-point devices to see if they are the source of bad calls due to issues like an old Wi-Fi driver, excessive noise caused by cheap headsets or microphone placement issues. If you could imagine how time consuming and tedious it is to troubleshoot poor quality calls - especially for large-scale deployments - then one can appreciate the compelling benefits of an automated diagnostic system.

The benefit of UC SDN for automating diagnostics is that it provides visibility to assist with root cause analysis of UC&C quality issues. It can also automate problem resolution without requiring dedicated probes, synthetics, etc. UC&C applications inform the Automated Diagnostic Service (ADS) in the form of a Real Time Media North Bound Interface (i.e.: UC SDN API), with a rich set of quality information whenever new UC&C sessions are being setup, torn down and when quality problems occur. Remember, you don't need to forklift your network to SDN switches in order to achieve the benefits. Please read my last article on this called UC and SDN - A Migration Strategy.

Read the interview I recently did with SDx Central here on Automated Diagnostics in SDN with Project Aspen and get an idea of why and how Automating Diagnostics using SDN can help deployments of UC.

Today there are many vendors shipping UC SDN solutions like Skype for Business SDN Interface and automated UC diagnostic systems like Nectar Systems, HP Enterprise Aruba for Wi-Fi, etc. Here is the full list of SDN vendors on the Skype for Business web site (click the SDN checkbox in Product Type).

Next month I will cover how service providers around the world are moving into an SDN and NFV environment and why.


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