Last week we were shooting a TechWiseTV episode on Telepresence. I refused to do this at first since there is a ton a crap out there on how cool it looks. If we do this show we have to go behind the scenes and not even show a Telepresence system until the end of the show. We did that and it turned out to easily be one of our best shows hands down. It airs in Feb if you want to check it out.
In building out the show, I was talking with our VOIP Co-Host Tina Shakour and we were sharing QoS horror stories and our conclusion is that it really takes ALOT to suck more then QoS. Maybe 802.1X comes close, but I'll save that for another blog....
And here is why;
When vendors talk about QoS (especially in pre-sales) they make it sound like it's a simple little toggle switch that you just throw and there you go! Kinda like enabling Dynamic ARP Inspection:
TWTV3750e(conf)#ip arp inspection vlan 2
QoS is very different per vendor, per device and even the type of QoS you use. Config'ing QoS is truthfully, not too bad IF you keep good records and trace the path of the traffic flow to make sure QoS is preserved end to end. But since we are looking at this flow on a redundant, meshed out, high speed network many issues really come into play here. Stuff like switches normally do QoS in hardware queues so they have limited space and routers normally do it software queues so space is not an issue but CPU resources are. What about wireless, VPNs, MPLS and the Internet? Toss in troubleshooting frames with a MTU size of 1522? Then decide which queuing algorithm should I use and you'll be drinkin' before noon with the rest of us QoS geeks. Many vendors have tried to simplify the QoS config process but they just open themselves up to QnQ attacks by trusting EVERY frame and allowing clients to mark their own QoS.
Many of these things suck about QoS and are just going to suck and we have to suck it up and sometimes that sucks. Cisco has made some strides in making this a little better. Features like Modular QoS is a step in the right direction https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/docs/DOC-1366 plus Auto-QoS is really nice for mass phone deployment. We did a show that covered Auto-QoS http://www.cisco.com/en/US/solutions/ns340/ns339/ns638/ns914/html_TWTV/twtv_episode_52.html Ease of use without compromising security is a very good thing. QoS is a PART of my job and my re-certification exams, not ALL of it!!!
Believe it or not, the ONE thing about QoS that has just gotten tons easier is (and I can not believe I am saying this) is the management. Hear me out now. Y'all know I am very critical of NMS but I have not lost hope that a good one will come along and change the game. That prophecy is close to being fulfilled.
Out of the shadows walks Live Action from Action Packed.
This is a NMS that handles QoS like nothing else I have seen on the market today. The sick and demented minds at Action Packed have figured out a way to design a user interface that makes sense, has practical work flows based upon how I as a field engineer troubleshoot and manage a network overlayed with QoS. After talking with the folks at Action Packed, I found out that they are Star Trek lovin' Black Black gum chewing engineers like me. They also dislike NMS solutions, so they built their own to solve problems they see. Respect +3
Now Live Action is an NMS but since it was built by engineers who know the mega suck factor of QoS, they built out a QoS sub-system interrogator that is second to none. Sure they do stuff like combining NBAR, NetFlow, IP SLA and Running configs to produce a real time picture of your network that allows me to map out traffic flows based upon applications and QoS trust levels. But they also allow me to use my imagination to customize my networks. For example, many times, I have to build out my own PDLM's (Protocol Descriptor Language Modules) for NBAR and sure enough, Live Action not only picked it up but also mapped it out based upon it's flow and pattern of usage.
Of course like many NMS's it draws nice pictures but the thing with Live Action is the pictures are actually useful for geeks and not upper level management. They show flow direction at the interface, each interface is broke out and labeled with it's speed. Plus I have very flexible filters that allow me to peel back traffic as I need to. I put Live Action though it's paces and was nothing but major league impressed. I installed it on a desktop PC in my lab. It's got a small footprint around 78Meg and low system resource utilization. A real piece of cake to config and get going.
So I started running various hacks, torrents and virus against my network and every single time Live Action could pick up the anomalous traffic from source to destination. Some of the traffic modeling features reminding me of the older HP Net Matrix product but much better. Plus the traffic reply feature was just icing on the cake. It allows me to see my traffic from days back and replay the entire flow. Kinda like the same feature CS-MARS has except that this one is graphical based using the same maps I use to view real time traffic. Make sure you have a good size hard drive to store this data well into the future.
Here the bottom line; Live Action is not a port of Fully Automated Nagios or MRTG. It is a fresh new build approach to NMS. If you run or need to run QoS on your network, I could not possibly give any other product for QoS management a higher recommendation then Live Action. You can download a full feature free version that supports three devices at:
or take a look at the fee based one at
I'm off to config a MPLS network today, which I hope is close to a Popeye's chicken....
Jimmy Ray Purser
Trivia File Transfer Protocol
The winner of the first recorded Olympic Game in 776 BC was a baker from Eleia, Coroebus of Elis. Instead of a cool Gold medal he got an olive branch.
Jimmy Ray Purser is the technical co-host for Cisco's TechWise and BizWise TV. Jimmy Ray also conducts advanced training for engineers across North America and Europe and regularly speaks at industry conferences such as VON, CeBIT, N+I, and Networkers. As a field engineer, Jimmy Ray experiences networking first hand behind the console or in the rack. He is an active member in the IEEE and the Ethernet Alliance and has designed, installed and tested numerous networks for Fortune 500 companies, the United States military and other institutions worldwide. He holds 3 U.S. patents for Ethernet security algorithms with two others pending and one defensive publication, as well as numerous other vendor certifications in networking and security.
Purser holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Southern Illinois University is currently pursuing a master of science degree in electrical engineering.