SolarWinds have announced the VOIP and Network Quality Manager, formerly known as SolarWinds IP SLA Manager, aimed directly at quality control of Cisco IP telephony systems today with support for additional vendors in the future. But beyond the core phone system software, the monitoring suite watches the entire VOIP environment holistically, including the transport, servers and software.
SolarWinds is certainly a stalwart in the network monitoring space. The Orion products are used throughout many telecommunications business, including my employer, to keep a handle on network performance and highlight transport and connectivity problems quickly.
As telephony and network solutions converge, complexities increase and troubleshooting becomes exponentially more difficult for the system admins. Visibility is the key to reducing the complexities and shedding light onto the cause of any system issue. SolarWinds is seeking to do that with the VOIP and Network Quality Manager. The suite monitors call quality statistics, network bandwidth and latency across the infrastructure, and service performance for the VOIP environment. It provides both real-time and historical views of the statistics it has collected and exposes them to aid in troubleshooting and isolating problems efficiently.
As a relative newbie to VOIP deployments, I know the critical things that I want to watch in our VOIP deployment, which would include latency, jitter, failed calls and packet loss. Unlike historical network monitoring, the servers and applications are also a critical piece of the puzzle for VOIP deployments, so keeping an eye on the performance of the server and the application is critical. Fortunately, the VOIP and Network Quality Manager does all these things and much more. The software does a good job of summarising health through the call monitoring screen which includes software performance, the number of phones registered and unregistered, and some basic system health statistics.
One of the shining features I found in this release is the call search features, helping to identify and investigate the behavior during a particular call when a user reports problems. This visibility is huge towards finding and squashing any problems that may be cropping up in the environment. Issues like buffer exhaustion or flaky connections between sites can wreak havoc on a VOIP deployment and traditional troubleshooting can be time consuming due to the number of components and potential causes of any given problem.
But most powerful of all is the ability to search for a particular call and inspect what happened or was happening during the context of that call. When users report an issue, seeing the environment’s behavior during that time period is key to preventing future problems.
One of the biggest advantages of a monitoring solution like VOIP and Network Quality Manager is the ability to get summary data while not losing the depth of a specific statistic. The software offers the ability to dive into a particular statistic and graph point-in-time information for critical statistics like jitter and latency. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, so a full set of screenshots are below in a gallery so you can explore the screens and functionality.