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NetScout Systems unified communications performance management appliance -- nGenius Voice and Video Manager -- achieved Microsoft certification status and is now qualified to measure video and voice session transmission and quality for Lync environments.
Real-time, critical applications like Lync demand more resources than other applications, and network managers need Microsoft Lync monitoring tools to ensure performance and the best user experience.
Not every vendor's UC offering can be monitored in the same way. "In order to get all the information about the video and voice calls -- like who is calling who and what the quality is like once connected to the UC servers -- IT needs tools that can pull the appropriate information from their servers and present it in a useful manner," said Jim Frey, research director at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA).
While some UC vendors provide narrowly focused monitoring and troubleshooting tools for their products, performance monitoring tools for overseeing unified communications (UC) should be more closely connected to the network. But traditional network monitoring tools lack the sophistication to correlate network performance to UC performance.
"Having the ability to see that UC traffic side-by-side with everything else [on the network] is really helpful," Frey said. "Tools like NetScout's [nGenius] have a broader, more objective viewpoint that [enterprises] wouldn't get from vendor-provided UC monitoring functionality."
NetScout's Microsoft Lync monitoring: Combining network, UC performance data into a single viewpoint
NetScout's nGenius Voice and Video Manager -- a vendor-agnostic offering -- provides quality measurements for voice, such as echo, noise level, speech distortion and listening quality, as well as video measurements like IP impairments and application issues. nGenius also offers traffic type, location and user information, and alerting options for emerging quality-affecting issues so IT can act before users are impacted.
The recent Microsoft certification qualifies nGenius to monitor and analyze Lync-specific infrastructure and IP communications from Lync sessions. The insight into on-premises Lync infrastructure will provide IT with actionable data and visibility into the end-to-end quality and performance of Lync services, said Steve Shalita, vice president of marketing at Westford, Mass.-based NetScout, the first network performance vendor to achieve Lync certification status.
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"Normally [NetScout tools] look at what's happening on the network and UC connectivity, but there is functionality within the Lync management system that looks at overall performance and quality metrics," Shalita said. "nGenius is able to take that information from the Lync server and all of the Lync endpoints, and blend it with the data our tools always collect -- like the typical network measurements and packet information."
The data collected from the network, endpoints and Lync server gives IT a single view to understand UC performance, as well as help network admins plan and execute UC rollouts, he said. "Being able to deal with large-scale environments and correlate this data across many locations and users is no easy task," Shalita said.
Combining network data with UC traffic information is especially important for large, distributed enterprises that may have a multi-vendor environment. Disparate performance monitoring tools for UC and the network can create a challenge for IT in determining where the problem is.
Microsoft Lync monitoring: A growing enterprise requirement
While network performance management is widely considered to be imperative to most IT teams, UC performance is not yet held to the same standard. As more enterprises deploy large UC projects, however, IT departments are looking for deeper UC troubleshooting capabilities. Application and network performance vendors are also seeking UC vendor certifications to prove their tools are equipped to manage UC traffic and uphold the user experience, EMA's Frey said.
"Lync deployments in particular are growing and are reaching the point where they need robust toolsets to keep on top of the success and quality of those deployments," he said.
Because Microsoft Lync doesn't come with its own network management toolset -- like Cisco's UC offerings do with Cisco Prime -- many enterprise Lync environments have relied on traditional network monitoring tools, said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst of Westminster, Mass.-based ZK Research. "With these tools, [IT] only gets a partial view of what is going on, because the way Microsoft measures [mean opinion score] MOS is a little bit different than how other vendors might; MOS leaves a little bit of room for interpretation for all UC vendors, he said. "Enterprises won't get as accurate a view with other tools as you would with a tool that has been certified to work with Lync."
As expectations for UC performance grows, enterprises are looking for the best way to monitor voice and video quality and performance. "Performance management has been a particular pain point for [enterprises] using Lync for voice, and it will become an increasingly larger pain point as more enterprises start trials of Lync Voice and Lync Video," he said. "Enterprises will be asking their management vendors to handle Lync Voice."