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VoIP troubleshooting - The network or the PBX?

Wide Area Networking Alert By Jim Metzler and Steve Taylor, Network World
February 08, 2010 12:05 AM ET
Jim Metzler
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Insightful analysis by consultants Steve Taylor and Jim Metzler, plus links to the latest WAN news headlines

Now that VoIP has become the de facto voice solution for most corporations, the hard part has begun. In particular, determining whether a problem is in a local PBX or in the network is more complicate than it was in the "good old days" of TDM-based voice.

PacketDesign and Prognosis have both recently offered significant guidance in this thorny problem, in one case by looking to network analytics, and the other by looking at purpose-built VoIP management systems.

Packet Design offers its views in a paper titled "Filling the Layer 3 Gap in VoIP Management". In the paper, PacketDesign notes that "while VoIP as an IP application or service is maturing, organizations still face risks in large-scale VoIP deployments, notably due to the gaps in VoIP management best practices and solutions." The paper does a great job of examining "why management of the underlying IP network, specifically Layer 3 management, is a critical, missing piece of most VoIP management portfolios." Route analytics can be a most useful tool in filling in this missing link.

Prognosis offers a purpose-built VoIP management tool specifically designed for enhancing diagnostics and performance analysis for VoIP networks using equipment for single or multiple networks. Their paper, "Troubleshooting the Top VoIP Call Quality Issues" gives an excellent description of many of the issues that companies are facing – especially for diagnosing problems with mixed-vendor networks.

In our subsequent discussions with Prognosis about this issue, we asked "How good are the "standards" for VoIP for diagnostics? Are most of the troubleshooting issues still dealing with proprietary command sets?"

The answer from Prognosis spokesperson Sue Bradshaw was "At a high level we're using standard interfaces such as SNMP, RTCP, MOS calculations and so on to diagnose issues with the PBX and its devices. On the other hand the proprietary command sets you refer to are those such as the Avaya SAT interface, and other interfaces that PBXs make available. The great thing about Prognosis is that irrespective of the available interfaces it provides a common starting point for troubleshooting and allows you to correlate information irrespective of source into one display or database for analysis."

Clearly, this is an issue that deserves more discussion than we have space for here, so we encourage you to join the discussion here.

Read more about lans & wans in Network World's LANs & WANs section.

Steve Taylor is president of Distributed Networking Associates and publisher/editor-in-chief of Webtorials. Jim Metzler is vice president of Ashton, Metzler & Associates.

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