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Apparent Networks Inc. this week at VoiceCon in Orlando, Fla., will roll out a voice-over-IP version of its network troubleshooting tool that allows users to assess their networks’ ability to handle voice traffic and lets them quickly address VOIP problems.

Because of its sensitivity to jitter, latency and packet loss, VOIP is not simply another application running on data networks. Increasingly, VOIP deployments are faltering when users fail to take into account voice traffic’s unique needs, experts say.

The company’s new AppareNet Voice offering can be used to predetermine network readiness for carrying VOIP traffic and, after deployment, to find the cause and location of jitter, latency, packet loss, bottlenecks, configuration issues and more.

Beta testers at the Internet2 Technology Evaluation Center at Texas A&M University find AppareNet Voice “close to indispensable for managing VOIP,” said Walt Magnussen, director of telecommunications at the school, in College Station, Texas.

“To be able to look at the network in advance and decide whether the link is sufficient is a big help,” Magnussen said. “But to use it to figure out what’s changed when problems happen is a big plus.”

AppareNet Voice includes a voice sequencer program for sending predefined packet bursts to destination IP addresses. If packets are deformed along the path by network problems, they can then be analyzed in a network intelligence system that performs pattern matching to determine the cause of the problems. The system measures throughput, propagation delays and MOS (mean Opinion score) and performs diagnostic functions. The voice sequencer takes into account VOIP codecs and QOS (quality of service) settings.

“With the MOS measurements, you can click on a graphic scale, and it’ll play back what the voice quality sounds like at that MOS score,” said Kelly Daniels, chief technology officer at Apparent Networks, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Texas A&M used AppareNet Voice to locate problems “down to the router on another institution’s network,” said Magnussen. The Internet2 Technology Evaluation Center also uses the product routinely to test links before they are used for videoconferencing, which is similarly sensitive to certain network problems.

“We always test before we do a videoconference—even if it’s within our enterprise,” Magnussen said.

AppareNet Voice is slated to ship in April.

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