Creating Business-Class VoIP: Ensuring End-to-End Service Quality and Performance in a Multi-Vendor Environment. A Stratecast Whitepaper

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1 : Ensuring End-to-End Service Quality and Performance in a Multi-Vendor Environment A

2 Executive Summary Creating Business-Class VoIP Traditional voice services have always been reliable, available, and of such high quality as to be effectively invisible to users. A user picks up the phone and there is dial-tone, they can hear the other party perfectly, and the connection and quality last until the users terminate the call. That invisibility exists because communications service providers implement extensive and complex assurance processes, procedures, and systems to create that experience for their subscribers. So it would follow that if VoIP is to be the backbone of a company s voice services or customer service organization, then that same level of quality can, and should, be expected. However, with the implementation of VoIP services, enterprises are taking on the role of service provider and the associated management and administration responsibilities that were once provided by others. That means that the enterprise, not the phone company, must now ensure the quality of its voice services every time a user picks up the phone. End-to-end management of VoIP services requires that enterprises monitor the network elements, applications, servers, and storage associated with delivering the service. Beyond the infrastructure and elements, enterprise network managers are taking on the full responsibility for service management. Quality of the delivered voice service can only be assured by managing all of the interactions from the broadband connection to the user s handset. Voice services, more than data services, require service management applications that can correlate end-to-end fault and performance data. Although VoIP services have the potential to reduce costs by eliminating monthly payments to a service provider there are added costs for increased bandwidth and management of the voice services over the IP network. The value of using the IP network for voice is the streamlining of infrastructure and decreased complexity that comes from sending all of the voice and data traffic generated by an enterprise over a single broadband data network. But unlike data traffic, voice traffic is live, extremely time sensitive to delay, latency, and jitter, and unforgiving of network congestion. The systems and tools used to manage the data network are inadequate for ensuring timely and quality delivery of voice traffic. Add to that the complexity of managing distributed, multi-vendor VoIP platforms operating within a global or merged business; and network managers are in a difficult situation. They are responsible for delivering high reliability, high availability voice service to thousands of users without the necessary tools to ensure performance and quality. This executive brief will describe the challenges that network managers face when tasked with delivering voice services and highlight examples of how one vendor, EMC, is providing a solution that addresses those challenges. Business VoIP Grows Up Touted as a cost-effective alternative to traditional voice services, VoIP services are being widely deployed in enterprises. In a 2007 study of 300 large and medium enterprises, Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan found that 21% of respondents have replaced legacy voice platforms with VoIP platforms and another 24% will do so within 2 years. That translates to nearly 50% of the businesses surveyed that will be implementing VoIP for some or all of their corporate voice services. Although the rate of adoption has been slower than originally predicted, VoIP is a platform that is gaining traction in not only the enterprise, but in managed service providers as well. In addition to cost savings, VoIP infrastructure sets the stage for businesses to deploy more flexible communications allowing employees to take their number from location to location or adding messaging capabilities for example ultimately setting the stage for the inclusion of video and the implementation of unified communications. The ability to use existing data infrastructure for voice services has the advantage of simplifying infrastructure requirements and potentially reducing monthly payments to service providers. However, by adding voice to existing enterprise network infrastructure, network managers are now responsible for a critical business application that was previously the responsibility of the service provider. Figure 1 describes the service management functions that are transferred to enterprise network managers as they roll out VoIP services. Network managers are now responsible for the quality of the end-to-end service including network and service infrastructure, service delivery, and customer experience Stratecast Page 2

3 Figure 1: VoIP Service Management Functions VoIP Infrastructure Service Delivery Business Voice Services Enterprise VoIP Infrastructure Enterprise IP Infrastructure Public Network - Handsets - Power - IP PBX - Routers - Application and storage servers - VoIP applications - Power - Routers - Application, storage servers - Security management applications - Inside wiring - Switches - Routers - Transport - Cable plant - Handset management - Call quality and volume - Moves, adds, changes, deletions - Number management - IT management and system administration - Router tables - Radius servers - Security/firewalls - QOS configuration - Capacity planning - QOS configuration - Interconnection management Customer Experience - Mean opinion scores - Customer quality metrics - Call attempts - Call completions - Call failures - Delay - Jitter - Packet loss - Capacity management - Utilization - Availability Source: Stratecast As enterprise network managers take over service provider responsibilities for delivering voice services over the internal data network, they must consider how they will deliver the following attributes that make existing landline voice services nearly indestructible: Availability Network availability is the measure of a user s ability to connect to the network and another caller every time they pick up a handset. In IP networks, bandwidth is shared and connections are not nailed up like they are in existing voice networks. Voice packets share bandwidth with data packets and if there are too many users, congestion occurs and packets are either dropped or require retransmission which takes time and impacts call quality. Any degradation in quality of the underlying network will affect call quality. Most IP equipment vendors have implemented methods to prioritize voice and video traffic to enhance the quality of the service, however quality issues persist. Availability is also affected by local power. Where existing landline voice services and handsets are powered over the network, VoIP handsets and equipment are powered on-premise and require power backup for access to emergency services in the event of a power failure. Quality Delay, jitter, and packet loss are the primary quality measures for an IP transport network. Based on those metrics, businesses add bandwidth to accommodate increased traffic. Voice service quality is greatly affected by those factors but simply adding more bandwidth is an expensive alternative. Metrics including call volume (attempts, completions, failures), voice quality, calling patterns, and network efficiency are important for service management and ensuring that there is sufficient bandwidth available across all segments of the network to reliably deliver voice services. Routers and edge devices implement quality-of-service (QOS) capabilities that prioritize traffic across the network based on the types of packets being routed (e.g. voice packets, video packets). However, if the majority of traffic coming into a router is voice traffic it will all have high priority and network congestion will again be a problem. Monitoring at the voice/service level in addition to the network level is required to manage voice quality. Scalability Managing an extended VoIP network requires that both the VoIP platforms and the management platforms scale to support tens of thousands of voice lines and thousands of simultaneous users. Existing VoIP management platforms do not scale well to this volume and business users are challenged to accommodate both the number of users and the number of 2008 Stratecast Page 3

4 calls. Managing an extended VoIP network requires the collection of large amounts of data from numerous, multi-vendor sources as well as the ability to rapidly correlate and deliver results in real time to network managers. Reliability The above factors allow enterprise network managers to ensure the reliability of the network. Existing landline voice networks operate at % reliability. Backup capabilities at both the IP transport network layer and the IP voice services layer are required. In addition the servers, data storage, VoIP applications, and power must be monitored and managed like network elements and deliver the same high levels of availability, quality, and scalability. Security Both voice and data networks require constant and vigilant security. However, existing landlines are much more secure than VoIP. Compromise of existing landline voice networks generally requires physical access, while VoIP communications traverse the internet. Any disruption from hackers or denial of service attacks that affect the internet at large or a business in particular can have devastating effects on VoIP service. Additionally, the firewalls and security mechanisms that protect IP data networks can become a hindrance to IP voice networks. Navigating multiple security layers adds time to the call completion process and can adversely affect performance. There are additional challenges that occur when changes are made to security applications to accommodate voice. When IP network security applications are upgraded, the data network will likely continue functioning, however voice applications might be affected. Regression testing of voice applications and services adds to maintenance costs, but becomes necessary to ensure that there is no impact to voice users. Cost Effectiveness One of the perceived benefits of implementing VoIP services is that the business will see a reduction in monthly costs. However, the costs of maintaining the quality of voice services is now the responsibility of the business and that cost should not be overlooked when making the business case for VoIP. Existing enterprise network operations and administration systems cannot adequately manage VoIP, neither can the management utilities that are bundled with the IP PBX. Those utilities monitor only that PBX and its associated connections but do not consider the underlying transport network nor does it include VoIP systems or components from other vendors. Reporting As VoIP management data is collected and correlated, it must be made available to operations, management, engineering, and IT administration personnel. Whether real time status and quality data or trend data required to manage capacity, each user requires a different view of the data in a useable format. Likewise, other business areas may require that data to be published to external applications. As businesses implement VoIP infrastructure and overlay voice services onto IP networks, addressing the broad set of attributes described above is critical to managing voice service delivery and ensuring a quality user experience. Old Solutions Cannot Solve New Problems As an enterprise takes on the challenge of managing voice services and VoIP infrastructure, the network manager is faced with all of the requirements for managing an IP data network combined with specific requirements for managing VoIP infrastructure and ensuring voice services quality. To deliver the reliability, quality, security, scalability, and availability that users expect of voice networks, management systems must be implemented that enable: A real time view of what the voice user is experiencing User-level voice quality and performance metrics that are correlated from multi-vendor VoIP, IT, and IP infrastructure elements Correlation of external network, service, and content provider monitoring with internal voice service monitoring Consolidated utilization and performance data that can be used by the IP and VoIP network planning processes Correlation of fault and performance data to determine the impact of outages on voice services An operations management platform that can collect, correlate, store, and access the volume of fault, performance, configuration, accounting, and security data that is required to manage a large voice network 2008 Stratecast Page 4

5 Voice service quality issues need real-time attention. The collection and correlation of data into trends for analysis after-the-fact is valuable for network and service planning purposes but does little to ensure voice service quality and reliability. Separate data collected by each network element paints only part of the picture of voice service quality. The ability to compile a single view of the user s experience from start to finish is invaluable for determining the quality of the delivered voice service as well as the overall status of the network and VoIP infrastructure. End-to-end V oip Service Management Beyond the layers of network and VoIP infrastructure, network managers must be able to peer through the layers of virtualization that occur when virtual LANs and multiple QoS schemes are implemented. In order to support voice services and users, it is important for VoIP management systems to be able to untie the layers of virtualization and present a consolidated, end-to-end view of the quality of the service delivered to each user. The ability to determine the root cause of a failure and dismiss cascading faults gives a network manager a clear picture of the problem and enables a more prompt and accurate response. IP service management is different from existing landline voice network monitoring because IP networks are best effort networks. In a circuit-switched network, there are pre-defined channels (circuits) that carry voice messages depending on the destination, and each channel operates at a fixed bandwidth. At any one time, regardless of message size, information is transported to its intended destination at this allocated transport level. In an IP/best effort network, a message is only allocated as much bandwidth as it needs and if there is sufficient bandwidth available, it is all allocated to the incoming message. By monitoring the Percent Utilization of each channel it is apparent when a channel is filling up and more bandwidth is needed. However an IP network regularly shows 100% utilization because the incoming packets are utilizing all of the available bandwidth. Contention issues arise when there are more packets than bandwidth and new packets are refused or blocked and must be retransmitted. This causes delay to those packets and erodes service quality (e.g. latency and jitter), which is obvious to a voice user, but not to a network manager. In addition, because VoIP traverses the internet, the status of the networks that carry the IP services traffic is also a factor in determining the quality of the delivered voice service. As a result, it is valuable to understand both the quality of VoIP services for users on the enterprise IP network AND the status of the broadband service being delivered to the business. There is fault and management data available from the IP network elements that, when properly correlated with VoIP fault and management data, can present the complete picture of voice service quality. A network manager with real time access to that kind of data can quickly determine the cause of problems and initiate the repair process either internally or with the responsible service provider. New Requirements for New Solutions As enterprises move to extend their implementation of IP services beyond data to include voice, video, or unified communications it is important that network managers implement service management solutions that extend existing IP router and transport management functionality to include management of VoIP infrastructure and services in order to implement the end-to-end management capabilities required to deliver reliable VoIP services. Enterprise VoIP initiatives that concentrate on routers and IP PBXs while ignoring end-to-end service management will quickly overwhelm network and IT administration personnel and risk outages of critical voice services. New solutions for managing IP services in general and VoIP solutions in particular must include: Visualization Those responsible for end-to-end management of voice, data, and video infrastructure and services require a view of the physical infrastructure, logical services infrastructure, and IT infrastructure that presents both an end-to-end view of the real-time operational configuration and the ability to drill down to specific infrastructure elements, services, and users. Comprehensive infrastructure view The network and network management attributes that are important to communication service providers that is, availability, quality, scalability, reliability, security, and cost are now equally important to enterprises, and enterprise VoIP management solutions must meet those stringent criteria. Likewise, the server, storage, and application views that are important to IT administrators are now critical to management of the end-to-end service. Services view Without an end-to-end view of voice service as it traverses both internal and external networks, network managers have no way to understand the quality of service being delivered to users. Likewise, tracking down a problem that 2008 Stratecast Page 5

6 is reported by an individual user becomes time consuming and difficult without access to fault and performance data from the handset to the internet. Multi-vendor support As the complexity of enterprise IP networks and VoIP services continues to increase, network management solutions must be able to collect data from multi-vendor sources and correlate that data to a single view. The volume and variety of network elements and communications applications coming to market to deliver unified communications virtually guarantees that enterprise IP networks will be multi-vendor. Data management The variety of sources and immense volume of management data collected requires enterprise network management systems to implement a common method for the capture, correlation, storage, and sharing of critical data for both real time usage and trending. Simplicity Networking is not the core business of most enterprises, however as networked applications and data transfer become mission critical functions, the management of the network becomes increasingly important to the business. Adding responsibility for critical voice services makes an integrated IP network and services management capability invaluable for network managers and IT administrators that are already stretched to the limits of their time and expertise. The difficulties that enterprises face when implementing VoIP solutions are primarily in the operations and management of the network infrastructure, the VoIP infrastructure, and the quality of the voice service delivered to the user. The hardware and technology issues that affected early VoIP implementations have been largely solved but the service management challenges remain. One solution designed to meet those challenges, the EMC Smarts VoIP Management Suite, is profiled in the following section. The EMC Smarts V oip Management Suite The EMC Smarts VoIP Management Suite unites network management, IT infrastructure management, and VoIP management to deliver an end-to-end service management for VoIP or other IP services. By monitoring and measuring the availability and performance of VoIP infrastructure and services as well as IP network performance and availability, the EMC Smarts solution presents a user view of voice performance and quality. Managing VoIP performance requires deep diagnostics and troubleshooting to enable root cause analysis and determine service levels. Status from multiple vendor VoIP platforms including Cisco, Avaya, and Nortel are integrated into one global management display, Figure 2. Figure 2: EMC Smarts VoIP Management Suite Availability Central 2008 Stratecast Page 6 Source: EMC

7 To ensure voice service quality, network managers need a real time view of the status of phone extensions, phone calls, voice quality, availability of voice service, and interconnections to service providers as well as detailed information specific to the end user experience. EMC Smarts collects both real time and historical voice quality information that enables trending of voice quality metrics across the business and supports network planning. By differentiating between incoming and outgoing calls and presenting call loading by route pattern, trunk group, and gateway; the system enables network managers to understand where capacity is required and where capacity can be recovered. Figure 3 is an example of Live MOS real time mean opinion scores relating to the quality of service delivered. Figure 3: EMC Smarts - Live MOS Creating Business-Class VoIP Source: EMC The reporting solution included in the VoIP Management Suite provides the ability to report performance against prescribed service levels. Flexible reports can be customized to meet business content, style, and branding requirements. Using a wizarddriven interface to generate Microsoft Word-based reports user-defined reports can include voice service metrics, service level analysis, operational metrics, and management statistics. A number of built-in reports are available that provide network managers with basic reporting capabilities out-of-the-box. Reports can be either real time or historical and include: Call loading (attempts, completions, failures) Device configuration and registration Device group calling patterns Voice quality patterns and problems Gateway and trunk utilization and capacity planning Server utilization Gateway, trunk, and route pattern availability Call failure patterns The suite delivers service management by building a model of the network, service, and user objects; their relationships and interactions. The service model automatically adapts as changes are made to maintain a current end-to-end view of the network, services, and users. For root-cause analysis, the suite leverages EMC Smarts Codebook Correlation technology that automates fault detection and correlation to determine the cause of a problem and the affected infrastructure, services, and users Stratecast Page 7

8 Stratecast The Last Word As the enterprises continue to transition to an IP multi-service environment that includes data, voice, and unified services across a single broadband IP infrastructure; the success or failure of those initiatives will be tied to how accurately and cost effectively VoIP services are launched and, more importantly, how well those services live up to business expectations. User-level service quality is what enterprise network managers must implement to deliver voice services that are not only available and reliable, but meet the quality expectations of the user. Rigidly maintaining the reliability and quality of the network, while still absolutely critical, is no longer enough to ensure that VoIP services meet expectations. The network and service assurance data required to generate a customer-centric view of VoIP service quality exists, however enterprises require additional tools and integration to utilize it for real time performance monitoring and fault management. In addition, enterprises must implement processes and organizational changes to enable a service assurance focus in general and include voice service assurance in particular. Tools that combine service assurance with network management streamline the organization. Likewise tools that automate fault and performance discovery, detection, correlation, and recovery processes optimize resources and allow quicker recovery from faults. Extensive automation and common information modeling enable enterprise network managers to simplify management of IP networks and services that are becoming increasingly more complex. EMC has responded to this challenge with true end-to-end VoIP management capabilities for enterprise customers. By providing access to and correlation of IP network management data, IP service data (including VoIP), and IT infrastructure management data; the EMC VoIP Management Suite enables enterprise network managers to understand their new VoIP operating environment and manage voice service delivery from end-to-end to ensure quality. In order to focus on the metrics and measures that are important to the quality of the voice services delivered, enterprises must acknowledge their role as service provider and implement tools such as the EMC Smarts VoIP Management Suite to manage IP services and deliver quality. Nancee E. Ruzicka Sr. Research Analyst OSS/BSS Global Competitive Strategies Stratecast (a Division of Frost & Sullivan) About Stratecast Stratecast directly assists clients in achieving their objectives by providing critical, objective and accurate strategic insight, in a variety of forms, via an access-and-industry-expertise-based strategic intelligence solution. Stratecast provides communications industry insight superior to a management consultancy, yet priced like a market research firm. Stratecast s product line includes: Monthly Analysis Services [Communications Infrastructure & Convergence (CIC), OSS/BSS Global Competitive Strategies (OSSCS), Consumer Communication Services (CCS), and Business Communication Services (BCS)]; Weekly Analysis Service [Stratecast Perspectives and Insight for Executives (SPIE)], Standalone Research, and Business Strategy Consulting. About Frost & Sullivan Frost & Sullivan, the Growth Consulting Company, partners with clients to accelerate their growth. The company's Growth Partnership Services, Growth Consulting and Career Best Practices empower clients to create a growth focused culture that generates, evaluates and implements effective growth strategies. Frost & Sullivan employs over 45 years of experience in partnering with Global 1000 companies, emerging businesses and the investment community from more than 30 offices on six continents. For more information about Frost & Sullivan s Growth Partnerships, visit CONTACT US For more information, visit dial , or

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