Network Visualization Tool Cuts MSP's Resolution Time

A picture is worth a thousand words, but one MSP has a different way to measure the impact of visualization. CMS, based in Richardson, Texas, provides outsourced network management and monitoring services for small and mid-sized telco service providers and enterprises. The company deployed layerX Technologies’ prism software, which encompasses alarm management, network management, VoIP quality management and IT automation. The product, which runs on layerX’s Arbitrator appliance, aims to visually organize an MSP customer’s network components to aid in troubleshooting. CMS, which uses prism in its network operations center, estimates that prism has reduced problem resolution time by 50 percent. Here's the story.

CMS’ use of prism falls under the same corporate roof: layerX and CMS are both subsidiaries of Shared Technologies Inc., a solutions provider based in Coppell, Texas (Shared Technologies operates as an Arrow Electronics Company, having been acquired in September). But layerX has additional MSP customers including Carousel, according to a company spokeswoman. The company’s target markets are MSPs and enterprises.

Chad Frazier, vice president of professional services at CMS, said a network management system provides alerts but typically leaves it to the NOC technician to interpret where those alerts fit into a customer’s overall network. The system might provide an IP address to point the technician in the general direction, but doesn’t offer additional context, he noted. The layerX technology, however, lets MSPs visualize a customer’s network assets and the subcomponents associated with each asset.

This logical grouping of devices identifies dependencies and provides greater context than network management systems, Frazier said. Color-coded alerts let MSPs track problems across assets and related subcomponents.

“It allows us to more intuitively be able to drill down to look at all of those subsystems,” Frazier said.

Frazier said prism also decreases the technicians’ learning curve, making them more efficient when working on customers’ networks and allowing them to find problems faster.

The technology also has a customer-facing dimension. In the past, CMS provided its customers with views into Tivoli Netcool, which the MSP also uses. Customers could view traps as they came in, but that approach offered little insight for customers unfamiliar with traps and their meaning, Frazier explained. With prism, CMS has the ability to customize a dashboard that displays network information according to customers’ interests and how they want the information presented, he added.

Tool sets can help MSPs maintain quality and keep customers apprised of network health. But they also can also potentially reduce the cost of providing services, a benefit that naturally cuts to the the bottom line.

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