Christopher Cullan, InfoVista
Christopher Cullan, InfoVista

InfoVista recently announced its support for Cisco’s Application Visibility & Control (AVC) as part of its Application Visibility Services solution for communications service providers (CSPs). I took some time out this week to speak with Christopher Cullan, product marketing manager for business services at InfoVista, to discuss the solution and specifically the significance of Cisco’s ISR-AX and AVC to his business.

Bob: Christopher, tell me what’s behind InfoVista’s investment in the Cisco AVC technology as part of your solution?

Christopher: Sure, by the way, you can call me Chris. Cisco AVC and the ISR-AX capability provides an attractive and simple architecture that takes advantage of the Customer Premise Equipment (CPE), and allows CSPs to offer customers a better service experience by enhancing the visibility of the service from an application perspective.

Bob: The application visibility?

Christopher: Yes, exactly—it’s a solution to the problem of the enterprises’ business-IT gap. Enterprise IT is constantly tasked to deliver greater agility to their business stakeholders, and it’s challenging for them to communicate with the business from an infrastructure perspective, including WAN services. The application is better understood and more tangible to the business because they experience it more directly (e.g. the business understands salesforce is slow today, versus the network latency is high). Having insight into not only what applications are traversing the WAN, between which users and systems and how much, but also the application performance itself, empowers enterprise IT to make better decisions and provide a greater experience to their stakeholders. In essence, it helps enterprises better align their IT to the needs of the business.

Bob: So how exactly does Cisco AVC play a role?

Christopher: Quite simply, Cisco AVC includes NBAR2’s DPI-based capability and application recognition which helps identify the myriad of applications traversing the CPE. The Performance Agent tracks the application performance as well as the usage information which our solution then collects using NetFlow protocols. This can be done with both physical and/or virtual appliances that handle multi-tenant collection including overlapping IP addresses, so that CSPs that deal with hundreds or thousands of customers can provide a scalable solution for capturing this valuable data.

Bob: And how do CSPs then offer it to their enterprise customers?

Christopher: We have a multi-tenant web portal, so customers can log in, see their VPNs, sites, and applications from multiple perspectives (i.e. by app, site or volume), all in real time. In fact, they can create groupings and various reports, save them as favorites and share them with colleagues. These features make the application visibility truly collaborative within the enterprise and maximize its value across the enterprise’s IT functions. CSPs can also build their own custom reports in addition to the hundreds included with the solution, to address specific customer needs or to align with particular product offerings.

Bob: And what has Cisco AVC specifically added in the context of this solution?

Christopher: Before Cisco AVC, CSPs could provide application usage information using only flow-based records. To achieve performance visibility as well, some type of DPI probe was required. Cisco AVC essentially turns the CPE into such a probe by adding the vast application discovery capabilities of NBAR2. With a Cisco AVC-based solution, CSPs can provide different tiers of service including usage-based services and performance-based services—all from the same architecture. In addition, because the CPE is often the gateway to other services aside from VPNs, such as the Internet, CSPs can now provide application performance and visibility on Internet-based applications and cloud computing (whether that’s a public cloud service, a CSP-brokered cloud service, a cloud service provided directly by a CSP or the enterprise’s own private cloud computing applications that use its VPN).

Bob: Chris, personally, I’m thrilled that InfoVista’s solution became AVC-certified. What does this mean to our joint customers?”

Christopher: First, it demonstrates that InfoVista’s and Cisco’s solutions are fully compatible. Customers are looking to both Cisco and InfoVista to work together to remove risk and accelerate their time-to-market. Second, it highlights the importance of our investment in AVC. We are the first managed service provider (MSP) solution to be certified by Cisco. Our customers have relied on our support for Cisco technologies for more than a decade; these include CBQoS, the original NBAR, IP SLA and others, and this certification is one more example of the continued collaboration between Cisco and InfoVista.

Bob: Thanks Chris. Last question: what’s the relevance of this type of service offering from a CSP’s or managed service provider’s (MSP) perspective?

Christopher: As you know, our software solutions are leveraged by many of CSPs worldwide; we equip large Tier 1/incumbent operators, smaller, regional providers as well as cable MSOs with our platform. When it comes to these CSPs’ business services, they are under constant attack with respect to price erosion; multiple competitors offering less expensive services, contract renewal concessions and the ‘dumb’ pipe perception. Meanwhile, networks aren’t getting any less expensive to build, modify or operate as evidenced by the rallying cry behind network function virtualization (NFV) by operators worldwide. Some problems are easier to solve than others, and one of those is enhancing the value of existing services like VPNs to enterprise customers.

By empowering their enterprise customers to close the ‘business-IT’ gap, a CSP/MSP can further enhance the value of its existing services, provide a differentiated offering and enable new incremental revenue streams, all while increasing the revenue growth of their primary services. Large enterprises and government, mid-market and even SMB customers need this type of visibility, and having a CSP/MSP partner provide such a service, gives them a cost-effective, fast and easy way to enhance and improve their own IT investments and end-user productivity and experience. Essentially, it’s application performance management (APM)-in-the-cloud. And with who better should they procure that service than their CSP or MSP technology partner.

Bob: Thanks Chris. I look forward to speaking with you again as well as some of your customers at booth #10 during TM Forum’s Management World 2013, taking place May 13-16 in Nice, France.