SBC Can Pretest Your Network Design

SAN ANTONIO (07/06/2000) - SBC Communications Inc. has a new early-warning tool that lets it pound on virtual copies of customer networks to find out how much their real networks can stand before they break.

Called Enterprise Designer, the software tool also lets SBC double-check new networks or network segments to see if they can handle intended loads.

Enterprise Designer will be used by SBC to simulate increasing loads on existing networks to help network executives decide when to increase capacity, says Howard Owens, an SBC engineering processes manager.

Enterprise Designer is the marriage of two commercially available software packages: IT Decision Guru from Opnet Technologies and a suite of software offerings from Netformx. SBC design engineers nationwide will be using the product by the end of the month.

The software products help systems engineers do their jobs faster with fewer errors, says Michael McCarthy, a systems engineer for Cisco who works with sales teams to design customer networks. He says the Netformx software draws on a database of information about specific products to guide the design.

"It lets you build a bill of materials for equipment you might not be as familiar with and makes sure you don't violate configuration rules," McCarthy says. "If you design a network without this, you inevitably wind up at a customer site to build the network and find you don't have enough ports in a certain area."

The Netformx software maps existing networks using autodiscovery. A PC running the software attaches to the customer network and captures SNMP data to review the network. Designers can then make changes and additions.

Using a database of information about vendor products, Enterprise Designer lets engineers specify how each device on the network should be configured. It then confirms that the devices specified can support the proposed network.

Opnet's software lets engineers load a computer model of a proposed network with traffic. The traffic patterns can be based on traffic statistics from an existing network or hypothetical traffic based on projections.

The virtual load tests generate reports that customers can use to decide whether to go ahead with network upgrades and to determine which segments need attention first. SBC customized Opnet's and Netformx's software so they can share files.

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