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Scrutinizer Offers Network Visibility, Optimizes Traffic Through WAN Tunnel

Jon Mills
Plixer International, Inc.
[email protected]

Sanford, ME — Dec 28, 2010 — Moving data center operations halfway across the world was a tricky undertaking for watch manufacturer Timex Corporation, one that required minimal impact on network performance at company headquarters.

Timex had been moving to a single global instance of Oracle and, as part of the strategy, decided to move its data center to Singapore. Although the strategy would work well for most of the company’s locations, it wasn’t ideal for headquarters in Middlebury, Connecticut.

“The main concern in moving the data center from Middlebury to Singapore was allowing it to appear to end users as if we never moved it” said Dave Edgecomb, Manager of Global Technical Operations.

Edgecomb was concerned with how the move would impact performance at the company’s headquarters because delays beyond 250 milliseconds would be noticeable to users. Edgecomb believed that wide area network (WAN) acceleration technologies could help solve the problem.

Using a VPN connection produced a 274-millisecond latency, clearly observable by users. Adding more bandwidth did nothing to improve the situation because the problem was distance rather than capacity. Going with Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) dropped the latency to 250ms which was then made invisible to end users by Riverbed Technologies.

Riverbed appliances were used to optimize traffic at key locations and reduce network latency. Because the Singapore facility connects to other global locations, it was given the largest appliance: the Steelhead 3020, a 3U model that comes with 1.0TB of disk space and can support 20 Mbps outbound local area network (LAN) to WAN traffic and 3500 optimized Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connections.

“Riverbed Technology overcame latency rates of up to 250 milliseconds.” Edgecomb explained. “With Steelhead appliances in place, corporate users don’t even notice that the data center is half way around the world rather than still sitting down in the basement.”

Riverbed Technology’s Steelhead appliance was the solution for WAN acceleration, but Timex didn’t have a way to see the optimized traffic within the tunnel on the WAN. “People were saying we had to do all these fancy algorithms so that our network monitoring shows the true network traffic” said Edgecomb. “We found there was a much simpler way.”

Their solution was Plixer International’s Scrutinizer NetFlow Analyzer, a software tool that provides incredibly detailed network traffic analysis information. Edgecomb activated NetFlow network monitoring protocol on his Cisco routers and Riverbed’s Steelhead appliances, and he pointed them to Scrutinizer for NetFlow reporting.

With Timex’s massive amounts of traffic across their network, NetFlow analysis provided the level of in-depth insight necessary for Timex to handle the relocation with minimal disruption to operations. This technology allowed Edgecomb’s team to monitor and record all IP traffic passing through the NetFlow supported router or switch to determine not only how much traffic they had, but also what type of traffic it was.

Through Edgecomb’s use of the Scrutinizer NetFlow collector during the relocation process, he was able to analyze the flow packets for source IP address, destination IP address, source port number, destination port number, protocol type, type of services, and the router input interface. Scrutinizer presented this data in a clear, graphical format, providing extremely detailed trending and measurement of network traffic.

Looking at the inputs to the Steelhead appliances allowed him to see the optimized traffic that was passing to the WAN, while the ports on the Cisco router displayed all traffic flowing over the WAN. This allowed him to see the true packet size on the network. That way, it wouldn’t appear that the connection was overloaded when it was actually carrying smaller optimized packets.

With Scrutinizer, he determined that email was consuming more bandwidth compared to Oracle or other applications. He also found that Active Directory transfers and DNS lookups were both top talkers on the network, so he was able to adjust their cache sizes to reduce the network traffic. With the addition of Scrutinizer NetFlow Analyzer to his technical tool box, Edgecomb was more efficiently able to complete the facility migration halfway across the world for Timex.

Beyond assisting with the data center relocation, Timex can use Scrutinizer to perform network mapping to identify and remove any systems that don’t belong on the network. When there is network latency, administrators can instantly identify the user generating the excess traffic and get the process transferred to off-peak times. NetFlow analysis has become increasingly indispensable to businesses for monitoring traffic, for troubleshooting performance errors, and for detecting worms, port scans, DDoS attacks, and other security threats and network misuse.

“The Scrutinizer NetFlow data finally sold us on the value of Riverbed’s technology.” Edgecomb said. “If anyone has a network problem, our strategy is to put in Riverbed before adding bandwidth.”

In addition to Timex, other retail facilities have also recognized the benefits of using Scrutinizer to monitor their network traffic with the NetFlow technology created by Cisco Systems. Businesses such as Ritz Cameras, Burlington Coat Factory, Sealy, and Kum & Go have begun taking advantage of Scrutinizer’s advanced NetFlow reporting capabilities to uphold network security. With automatic logging and reporting on all network traffic, businesses can now understand and manipulate the detailed interactions between systems.

Download a free trial of Plixer’s Scrutinizer for NetFlow traffic analysis, or schedule a live demo by calling: (207) 324-8805 or via email at [email protected]. For more NetFlow insight, follow Plixer International on their Blog, Twitter, Facebook or join the NetFlow Developments Group on LinkedIn.

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About Plixer International, Inc.

Plixer International, Inc. develops and markets network traffic monitoring and analysis tools to the global market. All of the tools are built from the ground up with valuable feature sets and ease of use in mind. Plixer tools have been used to analyze and troubleshoot irregular traffic patterns by IT professionals with some of the largest networks in the world, such as CNN, The Coca-Cola Company, Lockheed Martin, IBM, Regal Cinemas, Raytheon, and Eddie Bauer.

For product and sales information, contact Plixer International, Inc. at 1 Eagle Drive, Sanford, Maine, via telephone (207) 324-8805, fax (207) 324-8683; or visit the Plixer website.

Published in Press Releases 2010