Big Pipe Inc., a unit of Shaw Communications Inc., operates the network backbone for Shaw and provides Internet Protocol (IP) communications services to a number of large customers in Canada and the U.S. The company employs 23 field technicians in Canada and a handful in the U.S. to keep its network

and services running smoothly.

Big Pipe used to run into problems with customers finding some applications didn’t work properly over its network. Big Pipe would test its network up to the demarcation point, says Jens Goermann, supervisor of the broadband field technicians, and it would be fine. But the customer would report problems. It would generally turn out that the customer was using software or protocols incompatible with the network. The problem often took four to six hours to resolve.

Then Big Pipe started using OptiView Integrated Network Analyzers from Fluke Networks. An OptiView can simulate traffic over the network and identify protocols that cause problems where a customer network meets Big Pipe’s. Goermann says the tool helps technicians solve problems more quickly, adding some problems that took four or even six hours to resolve can now be resolved in about an hour.

Goermann says Big Pipe has also used OptiViews for testing on the Alberta SuperNet, a high-speed network sponsored by the provincial government. Big Pipe is one of the contractors providing backbone capacity for the SuperNet, and has used OptiViews to test connections to the last mile provided by Bell West, a unit of Bell Canada.

Big Pipe simulates traffic from the backbone to the last mile, and then Bell West technicians can see the simulated traffic flowing to their routers and determine if everything is working properly, he explained.

Goermann says the only thing he doesn’t like about the OptiView devices is that “”the cost of the units is quite high, and I can’t buy 23 of them.”” Big Pipe currently has four of the devices, which are passed around to different locations depending on need. “”They get a lot of air miles,”” Goermann quips. He hopes to buy four more before long.

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