Enterprises are being offered a new product that can monitor MPLS traffic 'in the cloud', allowing them to keep a close watch on the levels of service being delivered by WAN providers.
Packet Design's MPLS WAN Explorer will be able to assess changes in what the company calls 'reachability'. That is defined as the ability of IP traffic to move between any two sites at a given time and verify the service provider has deployed the MPLS VPN routing architecture according to enterprise policy.
There are already products that will monitor MPLS traffic within an enterprises (an example is NetScout's NGenius, which has an MPLS monitoring option). However, this is the first time managers have been able to reach into their service providers' cloud, says Alex Henthorn-Iwane, vice president of marketing at Packet Design.
"This is the first product that lets customers monitor the Layer 3 routing of their WANs that run across service provider MPLS VPNs," he says.
He says existing products monitor application traffic flowing in and out of an enterprise site, but are not able to provide any insight as to whether "routing issues either at a site or in the VPN are the cause of an application problem, whether a primary VPN has failed or whether administrative errors at the SP have inadvertently mixed two enterprise VPNs together and have compromised their privacy".
As well, the product would offer an improvement on service providers' own stats. "The sort of stats that MPLS VPN providers typically offer are: latency from edge to edge within their network and uptime availability of links between the SP and customer sites. However, they typically don't offer any stats on whether the site-to-site IP routing is operating correctly or not," he says.
MPLS WAN Explorer is an enhanced version of Packet Design's Route Explorer, which also works with the company's Traffic Explorer to monitor traffic by specific application and class of service using Netflow data. The product works by listening passively to routing protocol exchanges, to create an accurate, real-time routing map.
MPLS WAN Explorer is particularly effective for organisations with multiple service providers, he says.
Henthorn-Iwane says it isn't easy to give an accurate figure of the cost, as there are many different factors at play. He offered a sample European pricing of about €80,000 (NZ$196,000), but says that was for the larger enterprise that could have dozens to hundreds (or even thousands) of MPLS VPN-connected sites.
"There is a base price for the bundled hardware appliance the software runs on and licences for the IP routing protocol support required (such as BGP and OSPF), while a scalable pricing component is based on the total number of enterprise routers being monitored," he says.