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LiveAction Adds Machine Learning to Its Network Performance Management Software

LiveAction has announced version 7 of its LiveNX network performance management software.

LiveAction gathers and analyzes flow records, SNMP data and other information to give network operators a detailed view of network topology and end-to-end visibility into how applications are performing on the network.

The latest version introduces LiveInsight, a new software module to spot network anomalies. LiveNX 7 also broadens its Cisco SD-WAN support to include Viptela and integrates with Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE).

LiveNX also integrates with ServiceNow to streamline incident reporting.

What’s Going On In There?

To monitor network performance, LiveAction customers deploy collection nodes in branch and remote offices and in the data center. A collection node is a COTS server that runs LiveAction’s Linux-based virtual appliance.

Customers configure their network devices to export flow records to the appropriate node. Nodes can also receive SNMP data.

In addition to the collection nodes, customers must also deploy a management server that includes the UI and reporting tools.

Using flow records gathered by the nodes, LiveAction builds a view of the customer’s network topology that shows every device across which a flow traverses, from source to destination, and includes the all the routers, switches, firewalls, and other network devices in between.

Operators can examine flows based on the type of application (video, voice, HTTP, etc.), and drill into specific network devices to see which interface a specific flow traversed, and get metrics including jitter, packet loss, QoS policy settings, CPU utilization, and so on.

LiveAction also incorporates NBAR technology to identify specific applications, not just broad application categories.

LiveAction’s goal is to help administrators and operators understand network performance in near real time, see how network paths and network devices affect application performance, and quickly identify problems to speed up troubleshooting.

Getting Insight

As mentioned, LiveAction has added a new software module to LiveNX called LiveInsight. The software, which is available in the LiveNX package via an additional license, runs on the same collection nodes.

LiveInsight uses machine learning algorithms to assemble a baseline of normal behavior and performance trends on the network. Then, if the system detects anomalies, it will alert an operator.

Operators can decide to investigate or dismiss the alert. The system will incorporate operator feedback to inform its algorithms. At present, LiveInsight monitors trends in path changes, WAN utilization, and bandwidth consumption. LiveAction plans to add more capabilities in subsequent releases.

The SD-WAN Connection

LiveAction puts a lot of effort into positioning its product as a kind of companion technology to SD-WAN—not as an SD-WAN solution itself, but as a way to get more value from an SD-WAN deployment.

Case in point is the latest software release, which adds integration with Cisco Viptela. LiveAction already integrates with Cisco IWAN and Meraki.

And while LiveAction has deep ties with Cisco, it’s not limited to just Cisco products. LiveAction says it can work with SD-WAN products from vendors including Riverbed and Silver Peak.

What does LiveAction bring to the table to justify additional spending on top of an SD-WAN rollout?

Based on conversations with LiveAction, I think they would argue a few things.

First, prior to an SD-WAN rollout, LiveAction says it can help customers understand, in fine detail, the application and network profiles of branch and remote offices. These profiles may vary greatly depending on branch size, branch function (think sales vs. manufacturing for instance), application use, and how branch and remote offices interact with the corporate data center and with cloud services.

Second, an SD-WAN deployment won’t happen at every location simultaneously. Some locations are going to migrate ahead of others. The IT and networking teams still need visibility into performance and operations in this hybrid environment.

Third, even if your WAN goes all in on the SD, the branch network is likely going to have devices you need visibility into, like routers, firewalls, IPSs, and so on. Yes, SD-WAN vendors advocate for customers to replace their edge network devices with a single do-it-all box, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Fourth, even after an SD-WAN rollout, the network still needs troubleshooting, even if a clever branch appliance is flipping traffic between links to get the best performance. LiveAction gives you a view into the WAN that your SD-WAN vendor doesn’t have.

LiveNX 7, including LiveInsight, is available now. Read More…