Accedian Skylight Review

Very powerful troubleshooting tool that can help me find the root cause of an issue

What is our primary use case?

We are an IT consulting system integration and managed service provider. We provide service to different companies and focus on IT infrastructure, licenses, and security network. We also provide IPs, data center, virtualization, cloud solutions, etc.

Our customer had a performance issue. So, I introduced them to enterprise side of the Accedian solution.

They have both on-premise and SaaS, but the primary component is deployed on-premise. We gave them two components to the solution: One is called active monitoring and another is called passive monitoring. 

The active monitoring is part of their box appliance into the circuits and used to collect real-time information. That information will be sent over to their SaaS platform for analytics. We collect the information locally, installing a sensor control unit, which is a virtual server. Then, information gets collected from all the locations via active monitoring. The information will then be sent over to a the SaaS platform, which Accedian has for analysis. 

  • The ant Module is an appliance monitor, like a black box appliance. That's controlled by VMware. It is active monitoring and appliance-based. It plugs in data to the local VMware virtual server for collection, which is sent over to the cloud staff for analytics. 
  • The latest version of PVX that we are using is 6.6. That's for the application performance monitoring, which is passive. I know they are also trying to get the PVX into the cloud for analytics as well. I think that will happen later this year, but right now, it's being analyzed locally on a separate VMware server. 

They have a bunch of VMware servers using the full control for orchestrator and to do analysis.

For this particular deployment, we monitor the Internet, but we don't have Amazon Web Services or cloud deployment. We don't use the cloud for our service application. We have a local hosted service data center and our own private cloud. We built our own hosted data center at a third-party. Therefore, we do monitor the data side of the performance, including the connection, network, and application, but it's not a public cloud. We deploy the same PVX and ant Modules in our private cloud environment. These collect the application data for me so we can see how the application performs. It has achieved what I wanted to do, so it works great.

How has it helped my organization?

One major piece of what we are doing is called active monitoring (ant Module). Active monitoring is to monitor all circuits we have. For example, from Miami to New Jersey, we have a circuit. We're going to measure the performance package: loss, delay, jitter, and slew codes. We measure those KPI metrics, then we know how our network is doing. That's one side of the monitoring.

Another component is called a passive monitoring. At every location and between locations, we have a lot of application data. So, we are collecting all that data to the Accedian on-premise enterprise appliance (PVX). The PVX will collect all the application data locally and analyze it based on the different network segmentation of the traffic and its different applications, such as the Internet abroad in traffic, email traffic, database traffic, web traffic, or other production application traffic. It will separate them and analyze that traffic for each flow. If there are some issue with some application, it will be able to detect them.

For example, if people say, "Oh, my email is very slow." It can tell me, "Because the DNS resolution took 10 seconds. It should it be maybe 0.5 seconds. That's why there is a problem." Then, we can look into why it's taking so long to resolve a DNS thing. So, that helps us troubleshoot. Otherwise, when people complain about the performance, we don't know where to look into that issue. Therefore, this is a very good tool. We can look at the real-time data. We can understand why maybe a server is overutilized, then we can troubleshoot it from there. So, it's very powerful. We like it.

We have had poor network performance, and when we complained to our service provider, whomever they were, we didn't have data to back up our claim. We needed to show them something, such as, "Over the last three minutes, we haven't been collecting data between the two endpoints of your circuit." That's not good, and we needed to show them something.

Accedian can help me find the root cause of this issue. In general, we need to measure the service provider's performance. The service provider, when they sell you your circuit, will give you an SLA. Therefore, we can use the information that we collected to compare it to their SLA, whether it's package loss or latency. It can help me pinpoint the root cause of the network problem quickly. That's definitely one good thing.

With the passive monitoring for the application, they can pinpoint an application issue quickly to avoid finger-pointing. Application people might say it's a network issue. Network people might say, "No, it's not my issue. It's an application issue." We can get into those ping pong games all day long. It will not get us anywhere. With this tool, it can help us intelligently troubleshoot the root cause of the issue, which is great.

What is most valuable?

The user interface is very good, because it's all GUI-based. It's not command line. I know a lot of people don't like to type commands, so it's all GUI-based. For the active monitoring, we can put up a very nice dashboard. For example, for circuit performance, if you have 10 locations, then you have a dashboard for those 10 locations connecting to the headquarters. The dashboard will tell you the latency, jitter, and throughput. You can log in and see those number very quickly. If there's a problem, you will see it on the dashboard. On the diagram, you will see where the peak is or where the burst is. It will also tell you at what time. You can set it up to see the last minute, five minutes, hour, day, week, or year. You can set the interval you want.

What needs improvement?

For the PVX, they are in the process of getting the results to export to cloud and SaaS for analytics. They told me that this will happen later this year. Right now, for the most part, I create that data myself. 

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Accedian for over 10 years. 

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is very stable. I don't have issues.

After it's deployed, it does not require a lot of maintenance. This means it doesn't require frequent upgrades, etc. It's very low profile. It's not like other vendors, where some of their products require frequent upgrades.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability is very good. You can always add more sites. They charge you by license and the sessions. For example, for the PVX, it's licensed based on data flow.

The solution is not for normal end users. It is more for the Tier 2 or 3 (upper level) support people. There are probably 10 people using it: five from the network side and five from application side.

How are customer service and technical support?

Their technical support is very strong. They are very technical. They have developers who really know what they are doing and know what the industry needs. Every time I call them, I tell them the problem that I'm facing, and they can always make some suggestions or help me troubleshoot.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I started to know Accedian when I was their service provider. Back then, they had a niche as an Ethernet determination device for performance monitoring. Probably two to three years ago, Accedian created a new enterprise division. Now, they have products and solutions for enterprises, not just as service providers. I sort of know both of their product lines.

How was the initial setup?

It's straightforward. Because there's a lot of information that they're collecting, it will take a bit of time to set up, especially for each end-to-end connection that you want to monitor. With active monitoring, you have to set up a new system, which does take a little time to set up. 

We have about 15 locations. That takes probably two weeks to deploy.

What about the implementation team?

One full time resource helped us. You need local people to help you with the boxing.

We got it in a box and plugged it into the network. Then, we scheduled Accedian to help us configure a few locations. Afterwards, our local team, including myself, takes over. Because at the end of the day, we're going to be operating out of the boxes so we want to learn how to do it.

Accedian provided training to us, as far as how to monitor, look at the data, and make the data useful. They provided training as a part of the package. This was very efficient.

Accedian doesn't do a full scale deployment. They do a remote deployment with you. The customer will need to have local people, like myself, to do the physical work. At the end of the day, I will have them take a look and make sure what I did was correct. They will also tell me if I need to improve the configuration. It's a joint effort. It's not like they're going to send three people to travel to all of the sites to do storage themselves. It's not like that. They're going to help you remotely and that will save on costs as well.

What was our ROI?

This solution has helped to improve the interaction between our network, datacenter, and application teams. I have used other tools, but this tool can pinpoint the root cause of my application or network issue in the majority of the cases. So, it helps different divisions or groups in the IT department to troubleshoot together and get an issue resolved. This tool helps a lot in our day-to-day networking application and IT operations.

This solution has helped to optimize productivity or minimize downtime. It helps me do my job as a network engineer. I need it to troubleshoot. Every time people say, "Oh, my applications not working," usually people will start complaining about the network first. Now, I have a tool to show them whether it's a network issue or not. It is a very important tool to improve the efficiency of the entire IT team. 

In the past, when we didn't have this tool, people would start looking at all sort of things. After half day, they don't even know what's really causing the issue. They can be guessing all day long. Now, with this tool, the first thing that I do would be to go into it. I take a look whether my circuit had an issue within the last five minutes. Then, I look at the PVX, and whether it's the application that has any issues. It will tell me, because if there's an issue, e.g., you will see a spike on the latency or timeouts. Therefore, it will tell me which components or data flow is causing the issue, e.g., which data flow is showing abnormal activity. It's tremendous, because previously supporting an issue would take hours, where now it'll take minutes. That's the difference.

Mostly, the solution pays for itself. The active monitoring monitors service provide circuits. In many cases, a service provider has an SLA associated with each circuit they sell you. For example, if for my circuit is down for a day, I can be refunded for 50 percent of the cost of the month. Therefore, if you have a circuit that is frequently having an issue with this tool, you can show the service provider and they can refund you. Though, your goal is not to get a monthly refund. 

It's not that expensive of a solution and produces tremendous value. It has a great value proposition and will save you time. Same with the IT team's time, and time is money. It's a great investment.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It provides value and the cost is not huge. 

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Accedian is very granular, meaning they collect data unlike other vendors. Other vendors collect data as well, but maybe they collect at a one-minute interval. Accedian can collect the data at one-thousandth of a second interval, which is why it is very granular. You can really know at each fraction of a second what happened with the network, which is what we need.

We have used other vendors' products as well. Their products average out. For example, if we have a network peak for one or three seconds, Accedian can tell you about the information collected, "In those three seconds, you had a burst." Other vendors, they don't do that. If you average out those three seconds over a 60-second average, it may not tell you anything. It may be very smoothed out, whereas Accedian provides live data.

Other vendors, like SolarWinds, are not competing out of the same market. They do some things that overlap each other. With other vendors, their one-minute interval, narrow overview is for presentation to executives and managers, but it is not really good for network troubleshooting.

Accedian is really more science and engineering focused. We look at each individual package and each individual data flows. It is for the next level of troubleshooting and performance monitoring. They are really on the top of all the products that we looked at it. 

While there are other products, they are very expensive. You can bring other vendors in who produce hardware, which can plug into your network. This is not Accedian hardware, they are essentially very heavy duty hardware. Accedian combines being both cost-effective and also being very science and engineering focused. They do the day-to-day work very well.

What other advice do I have?

Accedian has a security product as well. The same information and data that we collect for the passive monitoring solution (PVX). They can analyze the same exact data to identify any security threats. We are doing proof of concept with them. There are a lot of security vendors in the market right now, so we have compared their solution with other vendors. We haven't purchased the security side of Accedian yet, but we are looking into it.

This tool is definitely worth looking into, no matter which industry you are in, because it generalizes all the problems an IT department has at each company in the circuit and in the application. 

I would give it a nine or nine point five out of 10. It is a good product to own. They are a stable company, which has the technical skills to produce a product like this.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner/reseller.
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