Network Performance Monitoring (NPM) handles performance measurement and diagnostics for network components to identify areas of opportunity for optimization. Largely consisting of debugging and deep packet inspection tools to facilitate fault tolerance as well as outage resolution management, the market has traditionally taken an inside-out approach to network management.
As Gartner points out, "while the networks have been well defined, the data and applications traversing these networks have changed considerably, requiring tools to evolve." Players such as a Fluke, Riverbed and JDSU's Network Instruments have dominated the space for many years.
These companies and others are already making the move toward Application Performance Monitoring (APM) which takes a bit more of an outside-in approach by providing visibility and focus on the performance of software applications that customers and business people interact with on a daily basis. These solutions tend to be cloud based and user experience focused.
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Both NPM and APM systems are critical to large enterprises, however, with the advent of BYOD and mobility a blind spot is in the air. Literally, it's in the air.
Indeed, there are tools for measuring the air, like WLAN spectrum analyzers and Wi-Fi speed testers, however, these are not proactive and many are not automated, thereby creating the blind spot into the Wi-Fi user's real-time experience when they are accessing critical business applications using their smartphones, tablets and laptops.
7signal is a company that addresses this blind spot with a proactive system of Wi-Fi performance management by simulating actual Wi-Fi client traffic over your WLAN, 24 by 7. Purpose-built to track and trend wireless performance over time, the system gives organizations the analytical data they need in order to optimize WLAN networks as well as plan for migrations to new platforms like 802.11ac.
A user who reports poor performance when using the Wi-Fi assumes it's the Wi-Fi. But without a Wi-Fi Performance Monitoring (WPM) system in place, it's difficult to tell. For example, it could be the switch, the ISP or the application that's having the issue…or perhaps it's the Wi-Fi. If it is the Wi-Fi, then traditional controller-based systems fall short of WPM in that they cannot quickly answer these questions:
- What is poor about the performance?
- Exactly how poor is the performance?
- How long has this been going on?
- Have there been any changes?
- Is this affecting others?
- What is causing the poor Wi-Fi performance?
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As a result of this NPM/APM blind spot, network managers are left guessing as to the root cause of Wi-Fi performance issues until they have answers to all these questions, which could take days, placing business operations at risk. It's clear that WPM provides a critical link in the network performance monitoring chain and that its role will become increasingly critical as the Wi-Fi, mobility and the Internet of Things unfolds over the next few years.