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Category Archives: Network Field Day 13

Shiny New NetPath Services

With network visibility being all the rage now, any tool that expands insight into what packets are doing is a beautiful thing. Netpath, new in Solarwinds NPM 12, does just that.

Watching the beginning of the presentation at NFD13, you might start to think this is just traceroute with pretty pictures – but that’s not all there is to this story.  The probes that Solarwinds uses aren’t just your standard run-of-the-mill icmp traceroute packets. Instead, these probes behave like the “real” network traffic you are trying to track, meaning they are less likely to be dropped by firewalls and other devices along the path.

It’s worth noting that NetPath is for TCP traffic only now, but assuming it’s TCP paths you want to investigate, you can assign a poller from your Solarwinds server or you can even install a polling agent on a Windows machine located closest to the source of the traffic that you want to investigate. Say you have a remote site that intermittently reports slowness with certain websites, with Netpath you can now observe traffic behavior from the site in question, giving you valuable information in resolving those vague and highly detestable “the network is slow” complaints.

Out of the box- or for me, after the upgrade of NPM to 12, you have a preconfigured poller for Google that looks something like this:

googleservice1

Which, when activated results in a path diagram that looks something like this:

googlepath

 

From there, it’s pretty easy to set up other pollers for your traffic of interest.

Last, but certainly not least, if you happen to own the NCM product as well, NetPath will also let you know if there have been any recent config changes to nodes NCM manages. Being able to correlate poor performance to a recent config change to a node along the path is to me is icing on the delicious networking visibility cake. Mmmmm, cake…

Jody Lemoine wrote an excellent post on Packet Pushers on NetPath services,I highly recommend checking it out for more details on this network monitoring goodness. Check out all the videos from Solarwinds at Network Field Day 13 here. Chris O’Brien does a really good job of explaining some of the magic behind the sauce used for these probes in this video if you are interested in details of the probe secret sauce –  loads of nerdy networking awesomeness.

Published 12/5/2016

Disclaimer: While Networking Field Day, which is sponsored by the companies that present, was very generous to invite me to this fantastic event and I am very grateful for it, my opinions are totally my own, as all redheads are far too stubborn to have it any other way

 

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Forward Networks – go ahead, break it.

When you’re tasked with planning for data center failover testing, you spend an awful lot of time reviewing configurations and scenarios, scrutinizing every detail to ensure that when the plug is pulled – both figuratively, and in some cases, literally, that all will go according to plan.  If you are someone lucky enough to have a lab environment at your job, it’s usually only a partial reconstruction of the network at best. In many cases, the luxury of a lab is simply non-existent in the workplace. I tend to exist in that latter world…

Watching Forward Networks present at Network Field Day 13, I couldn’t help but think how great this solution would be for exactly these types of scenarios.  Sure, you can plow through configurations manually and predict with some certainty that your routing is resilient. However, what if you could run through failover scenarios and network changes in advance, actually see the impacts in a lab that faithfully reconstructed your entire network?  The confidence in the DR testing plan skyrockets, and the reliance on anti-anxiety meds and lucky rabbit feet plummets.

The Forward Networks solution allows you to do just that by basically pulling all your configurations from your production gear, building your network, and then letting you break it. You could also just evaluate the network as well, if you’re not feeling particularly destructive. Forward Networks has several built in checks for elements that are commonly misconfigured, such as port channels, vlans, and port duplex settings, pretty much letting the lab network point out your previously overlooked mistakes.

You can also use Forward Networks to determine the complete path of certain traffic using their rather snazzy UI, which allows for some intuitive queries formed in human-speak, not SQL-I-don’t-know-the-right-table-name-please-just-show-me-my-data format.

Forward looking at the Forward Networks solution (see what I did there?) – I do wonder if price will be an obstacle for small to medium enterprise, as several products in this space are reassuringly expensive.*

I love that there is already a long list of vendors whose gear is supported in the product, but keeping pace with new vendors and OS versions will be a certainly be a challenge – one Forward Networks sounds excited to take on.

Definitely check out David Varnum’s post on Forward Networks as well, he goes into some detail on the company, the APIs of the product, and configuration checks Forward Networks is capable of in it’s current release. He’s also included some nice screen shots of the UI.

All of the videos from NFD13 from Forward Networks are a good watch, but if you only pick one, don’t miss the simulated outage demo.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be totally impressed by how much fun watching a pretend network failure can be.

 

 

*reassuringly expensive: a term I credit to the one and only Greg Ferro and a term that I make frequent use of in networking.

Published: 11/28/2016

Disclaimer: While Networking Field Day, which is sponsored by the companies that present, was very generous to invite me to this fantastic event and I am very grateful for it, my opinions are totally my own, as all redheads are far too stubborn to have it any other way.

 

 

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