The rise of bring-your-own-devices (BYOD), and the ubiquitous nature of WiFi, has led to an entirely new set of problems and challenges at the network edge. The test equipment that technicians use also has to adapt and change.
Network problems tend to cause the most trouble at the edge of the network, where there are many users with different device configurations and access technologies. Many times, troubleshooting these problems cannot happen from the network operations center. Instead, network technicians must be dispatched.
I recently spoke with Fluke Networks’s field marketing manager, Mark Mullins, about the company’s new OneTouch™ AT Network Assistant, which was designed for just these circumstances.
In order to identify the problem, technicians typically capture packets and use trial and error troubleshooting. Fluke Networks’s research indicates that many network technicians are under pressure to reduce ticket time. Unfortunately, the most common tool they use, a network management system, rarely solves the problem by itself. Forty-seven percent of the time, according to the company’s research, issues require the use of multiple tools, and 41 percent of tickets require collaboration with another technician or group (such as the service provider).
After looking at the data that its research team collected, Fluke Networks’ design team decided they would add an auto-test that would handle the typical trial/error testing. They also added tools to help with collaboration, including a web remote feature (share what you are seeing with another), packet capture (Mullins says that one in five issues require this), and simplified reporting. To that, they added a color touchscreen, built-in WiFi adapter, and two sets of ports (two copper ports and two fiber ports) that allow you to plug the unit in line.
On the display, the technician can see the auto tests occurring. For example, first they check for WiFi and/or wired connectivity, then for network services, including DHCP and DNS. On the top part of the display, technicians can see the user-defined application and service tests. The technician can plug into the network at the point of failure (e.g. the customer’s work station), and get the same point of view of the network as the customer’s equipment. They can check on availability and response time from the customer’s desk.
Mullins explained that many network management systems are based on a central console, so they don’t show what the end user is seeing.
So, this is actually version 2 of OneTouch AT from Fluke Networks. What’s changed? Fluke Networks’s research reveals that today, 48 percent to 58 percent of the time, technicians are dealing with WLAN or BYOD issues. This new version of the OneTouch includes BYOD management, WiFi (802.11ac) management performance measurements, network performance acceptance testing, and inline voice over IP testing. Another cool little feature is the ability to look at a device on both the wireless and wired side of the network, and the WiFi capture feature allows technicians to capture traffic from an access point or client.
More information on the product is available at the Fluke Networks website.
So, what testing issues do you have at the network edge? What do you wish your testing tools could do?