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The Application & Network Performance Analysis Troubleshooting Team (NAPA)

Jan 18, 2008
This article is the topic of Episode 5 of "The Sniffer Guy" podcast series available through iTunes.

INTRODUCTION:

Application & Network Performance Analysis is a team sport. Rarely are all the required skills in one skull. Perhaps it is best understood once you think in terms of functions and skill-sets within a Troubleshooting process. In order to be able to handle ANYTHING that comes along, you will need team members with high level skills in Enterprise Applications--Operating Systems--Databases--Server Issues and a detailed understanding of Protocols and Packet-Level transactions. But, to expect one or two people to have detailed knowledge of all these areas is unrealistic.

The Senior Network and Application Performance Analyst (NAPA) will need to be able to communicate with all these individuals, teams and managers. Communication & interviewing abilities are mandatory. If, even by some chance, you have the world's best troubleshooter--what if they leave? This Team approach is practical and stable.

THE 7 PRIMARY TEAM ROLES:

Network & Application Performance Analyst (NAPA) - Team Manager & Technical Team Lead. This person needs to understand all the various technical issues and be able to discuss them and ask the right questions of the individual experts. They are the hub of the team's wheel. The NAPA must learn all the Client's goals - Technical - Political - Management - Budgetary and then is able to scale the team accordingly.

Enterprise Application Specialist (EAS) - Able to map Application flow from functional & transactional basis. Understands Database interactions - Multi-Tiered Architecture - Web Servers.

Protocol Analyst - Packet-Sniffer Guru. Understands Network Protocols - Topology Framing - Troubleshooting from the Packet Level. This individual will be capturing trace files and analyzing the traffic at the protocol and packet-level.

Network Engineer - Familiar with wide variety of vendors i.e. Cisco--Foundry-- Nortel--Troubleshooting Layers 1-3. If this team member is part of an in-house team, they need only be up to date on the manufacture's equipment in place within the organization. However, if your team is a consulting team...this individual has to have experience with a wide range of manufactures.

Operating Systems Specialist - UNIX & Windows, Other...

Project Manager - Maintains Task List - Gant Chart - Reports to Client's Management

Technical Writer - Creates deliverable documentation showing work & resolutions provided by Network Application Performance Analysis Team. This person does not need to have a solid technical understanding but must be able to follow the gist of it when interviewing the technical team in order to "translate" the information into a document that is understandable to both a technical and NON-technical reader.

Network & Application performance Analysis troubleshooting doesn't require separate people in each role - single individuals can perform multiple roles. The Senior NAPA may be able to perform all roles--at a high level. However, the Client's Subject Matter Experts (SME) will still be required. Consider them a guest member of the team.

FREQUENT ROLE COMBINATIONS:

Project Manager--Technical Writer

Network & Application performance Analysis -- Protocol Analysis

Enterprise Application Specialist -- Operating System Specialist

INTIAL STEPS:

1) NAPA meets with Client Management - determines goals.

2) EAS meets with Application Subject Matter Experts (SME) - begins to map out the Interpath.

3) NAPA gathers all applicable documentation - begins environmental overview.

4) NAPA- EAS determine test goals.

5) NAPA- EAS - Client SME design test plan - select test transactions.

6) NAPA- Network Engineer - Client Network SME.

7) Map out Interpath within Network Infrastructure.

8) Plan how to place Sniffer, Ethereal - WireShark. Mirrors (SPANs) - Taps - Host Based - Wire Speed, etc.

9) Implement plan & deploy tools.

10) Protocol Analyst - NAPA executes selected Application Transaction for performance analysis - captures appropriate trace files - log User experience.

11) Protocol Analyst performs analysis of trace files & begins Documentation.

12) Theories are developed - Test Plan modified - second round of analysis testing (where needed).

Having a Champion within Client's organization is critical. Organization's staff members are not accountable to The NAPA Team - does not have to provide information or perform tasks. Will not do so when busy - but always busy! A Champion will help clear the path of internal escalation.
About the Author
Barry Koplowitz founded Interpath Technologies Corporation in 1999. Barry spent 3 years with Network General and NAI traveling around the United States teaching for Sniffer University. Since then, he has worked consulting to large enterprise environments in the area of in the area of Enterprise Network & Application Analysis and Troubleshooting. He is the writer and host of The Sniffer Guy podcast. http://www.interpathtech.com
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