New Spirent monitoring solution uncovers Wi-Fi issues that impact customer experience

Spirent AxonPulse shifts the focus from reactive to proactive monitoring and detection of performance issues on enterprise corporate LAN/WAN and Wi-Fi networks

New Spirent monitoring solution uncovers Wi-Fi issues that impact customer experience

Spirent Communications unveiled a new comprehensive active network monitoring and testing solution for Wi-Fi and fixed lined networks – AxonPulse this week (8 October 2014). A quality Internet experience creates trust and loyalty from customers using an enterprise or business for work, visiting with friends or using it as their ‘go to’ store.  

As part of Spirent’s Enterprise initiative, AxonPulse gives IT operation teams of any size, in any industry, the ability to efficiently find and fix network connectivity and performance issues before the end user is impacted.

AxonPulse complements current passive visibility solutions by accurately simulating customer network activity and measuring their experience. Hotels can use AxonPulse to test guest Wi-Fi connectivity, while simultaneously checking-in guests.

In a retail network, AxonPulse tests the reliability of point of sale networks or the customer experience using apps such as Facebook, YouTube or a proprietary application over the store’s Wi-Fi connection.

Financial institutions can monitor and test network performance across branch offices to ensure a quality user experience for both employees and customers. And large entertainment and sports arenas can use AxonPulse to ensure smooth and seamless connectivity to public Wi-Fi.

Speaking to Wireless at the IP Expo event at ExCel in London this week, David Hill, VP EMEA sales at Spirent, said: ‘What AxonPulse does is put probes into the network to understand what the wireless network is doing in real time from a user’s point of view and then we can emulate those conditions.

‘For example, the probe can spoofs downloading a Facebook page or the experience of watching a video, so it can see what the network is doing and identify what might need improving and where.

‘It is designed to help optimise the customer experience and it does so by replicating actual network and user behaviour. The Wi-Fi management tool might be telling the operator/owner that the network is fine, but the probe can reveal that this isn’t necessarily so from a user’s point of view,’ said Hill.

Key features of AxonPulse
AxonPulse can be placed anywhere on the network from the edge to the core, wireless or fixed, and measures key performance metrics such as throughput, video quality, download and upload time as well as the performance of popular applications by actually using them.

AxonPulse is comprised of three components – AxonCore, AxonPoint, and AxonCloud Control. Designed to complement existing monitoring solutions, AxonPulse gives IT teams the tools to manage real user experience on fixed line or wireless networks – all managed from an easy-to-use cloud-based portal.

AxonCore is designed for data centres and primary network locations. It provides monitoring and test capabilities on 1G and 10G fixed line infrastructure to ensure maximum performance across the core network.

AxonPoint is designed for the edge of the network and gives network managers monitoring and testing capabilities on fixed line and Wi-Fi networks, at branch offices or at the access level of large Wi-Fi installations. It even gauges performance of user-facing connections to internal and external services such as Facebook and YouTube and other public applications.

AxonCloud Control allows the solution to be configured and managed from the cloud. Field techs and IT managers can log in from virtually anywhere to get access to quality of service and user experience analytics, thus cutting down on time spent performing site visits.

“With the AxonPulse platform, IT operations teams can ensure they are delivering high quality and reliable services by measuring network performance and KPIs from the customer standpoint, not just from inside the network,” said Jim Curtain, general manager at Spirent Communications.

“AxonPulse fundamentally shifts the focus from reactive to proactive detection and management. Everybody talks about finding potential customer experience issues before they’re out in the field, or before they’re noticed by customers. This platform delivers this capability in a new and exciting way.  

“It doesn’t replace current visibility tools - it complements and amplifies them, allowing forward thinking organisations to drive progressively higher levels of quality into their networks,” said Curtain.

New acquisitions expand Spirent’s testing capability
Speaking again to Wireless this week, Hill explained that Spirent now has 12 business units and has made no less than four acquisitions this year in different technology spaces –all of which are software based.  ‘We are not buying tin,’ he said.

A case in point is DAX Technologies Group, which Spirent announced it was acquiring in February this year. The DAX InTouch software is a customer experience and service quality management solution, able to aggregate and analyse data from a wide ecosystem of existing sources, including probes, network equipment and end user devices. The technology gives service providers real-time insights into their customers’ experience.

‘DAX’s main customers are in the US with Verizon being its biggest client,’ said Hill. ‘We provide a generic solution which will cover 70-80% of the required functionality and we can then customise the rest to meet the individual client’s particular requirements. We have all the interfaces that are required so it is very straightforward for use to do.

‘From the RoI stats I’ve seen for people like Verizon it is very compelling offering. It helps streamline their activities in terms of identifying mobile antennas or base stations that are beginning to go down and they can see which base stations generate most revenue, so they  can prioritise repairs, maintenance and upgrade programmes.’

‘As for subscribers, the service provider can see who is Facebook mad, who plays a lot of video, or is into online gaming in a mobile environment,’ continued Hill. ‘They can take those ecosystems and target them for marketing purposes, but also use the information we harvest to improve the customer experience.

‘The service provider can advise subscribers which is the best performing handset on its network for the applications that customer most uses. Operators can use this real time data to monetise what they’ve got through targeted advertising, marketing and reducing churn,’ said Hill.

Mobile Think, based in Aarhus, Denmark is another recent acquisition made on 12 September. It employs 55 people, has 155 projects on the go and has additional offices in Kuala Lumpur and Dar es Salaam. It provides mobile device management, device analytics and intelligence solutions for mobile operators. Its Tweakker product is a cloud based mobile device configuration solution specifically targeted a MVNOs.

‘It evolved out of a business that is providing applications,’ explained Hill. ‘When you got a new mobile phone that needed to be set up, Mobile Think would download the set up instructions to your phone. Now they are into a wide range of device management including SIM management, over the air device configuration, automatic device, terminal and subscriber repository; USIM management, apps downloading and so on to enable service providers to proactively improve the user experience.’

In July this year, Spirent acquired Radvision’s Technology Business Unit, which extended its test capabilities into voice over LTE and voice and video over IP software solutions. The ProLab testing suite has strengthened Spirent’s own VoLTE test offering.

Hill reports that Spirent is also expanding its geo-location and satellite simulation capability, an area in which it has been a market leader for some time with products such as its GSS6700 multi-GNSS constellation simulator system. Testing the hackability of drones and intelligent cars for the automotive industry are growing sectors of business for which it has developed specific tests.

‘There is technology out there trying to control different things: look at the drone world, countries will try to mess with the drone’s software and disable it. If someone finds a way to hack into your intelligent care and turn the breaks off you are in big trouble. We are developing tests for this kind of thing and incorporating alarms to warn users if they are under cyber attack,’ said Hill.

Critical Infrastructure is another area Spirent is looking at. ‘We’ve engaged with some of the big players and looked at some of the industrial firewalls. Worryingly, we have found that they are much more vulnerable than many consumer ones,’ said Hill.

In September, Spirent unveiled its Elevate Test Framework, which will test wireless and M2M devices and services. Elevate is different to most testing models as it separates hardware from software and makes use of virtualisation and organising of test elements and resources into an open architecture.

Finally, the company has bought several businesses in the enterprise cloud space including Blitz.io and ArmorHub. ArmorHub is a cloud-based vulnerability scanning service for website owners, applications developers, API managers and anyone with an Internet presence.

ArmorHub, together with Blitz.io, is designed to provide a comprehensive set of cloud-based services for security assessment and load testing. It is being marketed via new subscription based Software-as-a-Service offering.

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