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From the Virtyx Blog

The End-to-End Argument in Network Monitoring

By Jim Maniscalco • March 16, 2017

The End-to-End Argument is important to analyze and understand the proper method for deployment specific network functionality.

The basic idea is that a proposed function should only be considered and implemented into the network itself when that function can be implemented in the network with such a completeness that all users of the network would benefit from its implementation. If there is any type and level of cost to implementing said function inside the network, even when most of the clients or traffic in the network does in fact use it, this cost of implementing may not make sense.

An alternative to implementing a function inside the network is for the end clients to implement the function. Examples of this are encryption, flow control and guaranteed delivery of data; the End to End argument had a significant impact on the design of the TCP protocol to guarantee reliable transmission over unreliable networks. The End to End argument has been a reliable form of governance to keep the network simple and to deliver solid performance for all clients.

One area in particular where the End to End argument has not entirely been upheld relates to network monitoring and management. Most network management and monitoring systems focus on individual components of the network such as routers and switches. It is entirely possible that each one of these component work correctly, but the clients on the network are losing packets or experiencing performance issues. The only way to see these problems is to monitor the end-to-end function of packet delivery and performance from the endpoints of the network. Monitoring from the end clients provides the ability to see the performance of the network as the End User is actually experiencing the network. This allows the monitoring system to find the effects of problems anywhere in the network path – – from user to the application.

Areas where these problems exist and which are often difficult to monitor include:

  • End station operating system, TCP stack and network hardware.
  • LAN Network, performance, packet loss, latency and other uses.
  • First Hop Router issues and router access control
  • Outbound controls such as Web URL Filtering, or Proxies.

In a recent problem we were involved with at a Virtyx client where a small set of End Users reported they were having problems accessing the Internet. This report came in via phone and quickly receded into background noise. This report was escalated to the network team, each silo (LAN, WAN, Firewall and Internet) went into their tool of choice, and to no great surprise not one silo team reported a problem.

The report from the End User did not have a definitive timestamp of when the problem commenced or when it subsequently cleared so it was difficult to correlate the problem with any other monitoring tools. If the End User workstations had end point monitoring installed on them we would have been able to see the when, where, what and why of the problem(s) that End User experienced. It would also allow the collection of additional information which the End User could not collect or convey as part of the problem report. At this point we don’t know exactly what happened or what caused the issue and it will be something which can be held over the network team until we determine the root of the problem.

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