CITS finds software sonar for network dark spots

With 4,000 nodes on a network sprawling across British Columbia, tracking down problems on the Shared Provincial Access Network (SPAN) reported by one of the 50,000 users is no easy task.

With appareNet, a new network intelligence tool developed by Vancouver’s Jaalam Technologies, the provincial government’s Common Information Technology Services (CITS) department hopes it will be a little easier.

Run by the province, SPAN is the government’s own internal computer network, and other users include government boards, agencies and commissions, the Provincial Learning Network, PharmaNet, BC Liquor Stores and BC Ferries.

Martin Webb, manager of data operations for CITS, explains they were looking for a dynamic tool that allowed them to test the network quickly. Something easy to use, that would give them an idea of where to focus their resources when a user reports performance issues.

“”In a hard-down situation, it’s a little easier to find the problem because you can see where it’s stopped,”” says Webb. “”With a performance issue, where someone’s indicating they have a slow response, you need to understand where the bottleneck might actually be happening, if there is one.””

Their task is also complicated by the composition of the network, which is a patchwork of technologies and equipment. Webb says they needed a product that would tell them quickly where the problem may be: is it an issue with the local circuit running between the network centre and the client location, or is it something further back in the network?

“”There weren’t too many products we were that serious about,”” says Webb. “”Even though the network is basically under our umbrella, a lot of the tools required the installation of a remote device, which is problematic because of the number of sites we have, or the application of a piece of software at the remote end.””

Webb says they first met with Jaalam a year and a half ago, when the company was a young start-up and appareNet was still in product development. They were impressed with what they saw, but he says at that point it didn’t really hit home that the product would actually be that simple, easy to use and accurate.

As Jaalam was going to market with appareNet a year later he had them in for a demo, which it passed with flying colours.

“”We did go through a purchasing process with BC Bid, putting the requirements out there for a product that didn’t require the application of remote devices or the installation of remote software,”” says Webb. “”(Other then appareNet) there was nothing else qualified for that.””

Jaalam director of marketing Wayne Browne says that while a number of companies have developed network performance diagnostic solutions, appareNet takes a unique approach. It tell

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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