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Using the right diagnostic tool

The second step in isolating performance problems is using the right tool: one that’s portable, integrated and comprehensive, meaning it provides insight into the entire network. A variety of alternative tools are available, from fixed enterprise monitoring and troubleshooting hardware and software, to free or low-cost open-source software you can run on a laptop. The difficulties of these tools include hardware that’s mounted in a rack and not portable – more likely than not your problem will occur where you don’t have a probe. Portability is important because you want to go where the problem is, the root cause of problems could be distributed across the network infrastructure, so you need to be close to the source to solve the issue effectively.

In addition, none of these alternative tools offers every capability needed to diagnose the problem, so several are required, each for a different purpose:

  • SNMP polling tool
  • Wire speed, hardware packet capture tool
  • Protocol analyzer
  • Traffic monitoring tool
  • Host management utilities (telnet) tool

That means network engineers must learn how to use and interpret multiple tools. Then it’s difficult and time-consuming to integrate all the information from the multiple tools for a comprehensive view of your enterprise network. There is also a cost associated with owning multiple tools that comes from training, the user’s learning curve, maintenance and upgrade costs.

To really understand the advantages of a portable, integrated analysis tool for diagnosing the common causes of application slowdown, consider the following scenarios. In each case, a portable integrated network analyzer was used to first determine or eliminate the possibility that the slowdown was caused by a network problem, then to determine the actual cause of an application problem.