NetScout Extends Unified Datacenter Visibility into Virtual Computing Environments

New virtualized data source for nGenius Service Assurance Solution extends unified service delivery management capabilities into private clouds

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NetScout Systems today announced the availability of the nGenius Virtual Agent software, extending critical unified service delivery visibility into applications contained within a virtual computing environment. As a virtualized implementation of the company’s widely deployed nGenius Probe technology, the nGenius Virtual Agent seamlessly extends high-performance packet-flow monitoring and analysis capabilities deeper into the data center and private clouds, enabling IT organizations to regain true end-to-end visibility of application traffic from within virtual servers.

As IT organizations leverage application and server virtualization technologies to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and ease the environmental impact of compute resources, they lose vital visibility into the behavior and performance of the very applications that have been virtualized. What was once a rack of dedicated servers interconnected via network switches has now been consolidated into a single virtual server hosting many different applications with a virtual switch enabling communications between the virtual machines.

Although tools exist for managing the virtual platform, IT organizations are still challenged to consistently manage, optimize, and troubleshoot virtualized applications relative to, and in context with, end-to-end service delivery. IT staff needs a unified view into inter-application transactions and performance as it relates to end-to-end service levels and user experience that is consistent with how traditional application deployments have been measured.

Seamlessly integrated with the nGenius Service Assurance Solution, the nGenius Virtual Agent complements nGenius hardware-based instrumentation strategies by reestablishing real-time, always-on visibility into virtual computing environments. The nGenius Virtual Agent installs as a virtual appliance on a virtual machine, consuming minimal platform resources. In the case of a VMware environment, the Virtual Agent connects to the hypervisor’s virtual switch to reveal visibility for all application transactions within or across virtual servers. The Agent software automatically discovers all applications and their interdependencies within, and external to, the virtual server providing key performance indicators (KPIs), intelligent anomaly detection and comprehensive performance metrics.

Extending Always-on intelligent Deep Packet Capture

Consistent with dedicated Probe technology, the Virtual Agent supports short-term packet capture capabilities that can be initiated on-demand or in response to a pre-defined trigger. For deployments that require always-on intelligent deep packet capture (iDPC) capabilities from within the virtual environment, the nGenius Virtual Agent can also be deployed in a continuous “TAP mode” that enables the mirroring of all virtual server traffic to an external nGenius InfiniStream appliance. This enables invaluable back-in-time forensic analysis of application and inter/intra virtual machine traffic providing even more granular historical insight into application behavior from within the virtual server. The dual mode operation of the Virtual Agent provides unmatched deployment versatility while enabling the IT organization to regain valuable forensics analysis capabilities that can only be performed with actual application packets.

With rich application performance metadata from virtual servers, the nGenius Service Assurance Solution analyzes and reports on virtualized application transactions in the identical manner and context as for non-virtualized server transactions. This provides the IT organization with granular understanding of how application interdependencies may impact overall application performance and the downstream effect on user experience.

In addition, IT staff benefits from a unified view of the virtual application traffic over the end-to-end service delivery environment that also includes voice, video, telepresence, and other non-virtualized applications. This dramatically simplifies the management of complex virtual application deployments and enables the IT organization to more efficiently optimize service delivery, predict and prevent performance issues and speed problem resolution in context with the overall service delivery environment.

Cross-organization collaboration is also enhanced since the nGenius Service Assurance Solution provides unified visibility that can be leveraged across the IT organization including the network, application, server and data center teams to achieve operational consistency.

Addressing Dynamic Resource Movement

Adding to the performance management challenges associated with virtualization is the advent of dynamic application movement across virtual environments. In a virtualized deployment, applications can move from one virtual server to another, increasing the network management team’s challenge of anticipating and managing network traffic. Since virtual servers can be located in different parts of the data center or around the world, an application’s movement can cause significant and unexpected impact to network operations, resulting in performance degradations and undesired user impact.

Although the application or server team may know about the application’s movement, the network staff can be caught by surprise from moving application-bound traffic. With the Virtual Agent deployed, the nGenius Service Assurance Solution will identify application movement between servers from a network perspective. The Virtual Agent automatically discovers new or moved applications within a virtual server enabling network staff to instantaneously know which applications have moved, enabling them to predict and address sudden changes in network traffic patterns. This knowledge will also help IT staff to correlate and better understand the performance of virtualized services across multiple servers and network elements, validate the implementation of moved services and aid in the optimization of application use of compute and network resources.

“As enterprises continue to drive datacenter and server consolidation initiatives and increasingly leverage virtualization technologies, all the challenges associated with optimizing, protecting, and troubleshooting applications apply to virtualized networks, but with exponentially more complexity and urgency”, said Steven Shalita, vice president of marketing at NetScout Systems.

“By addressing the challenges at the heart of the data center, we are enhancing and simplifying the IT organizations’ ability to find and resolve complex services delivery problems when and where they occur. This enables an already over tasked IT staff to meet demanding service-level expectations by optimizing delivery, protecting against service degradations, and simplifying operations for complex service delivery environments.”

Availability

The initial implementation of the nGenius Virtual Agent software is available now for VMware ESX and VMware ESXi environments and can be seamlessly inserted into existing nGenius managed environments. The iDPC TAP functionality will be supported in Q4 2009 through a minor software update available at no cost.

NetScout distributes the Virtual Agent Software freely, but its deployment consumes a license port within the nGenius Performance Manager platform resulting in an effective cost of $1,000 per deployed agent.

For more information, visit www.netscout.com.