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Tool gives on-site management capabilities to distributed networks

Uplogix today introduced Envoy 2.0, a management tool for distributed networks, and one company plans to use it to keep an eye on its global infrastructure.

Joshua Tabin is always looking for new technology to keep his company's global network running smoothly without a lot of added expense.

As chief financial officer for RigNet, a provider of managed communication services to offshore rigs, land rigs and remote locations in the oil and gas industry, Tabin keeps his eyes open for "anything that allows us the ability to scale and keep up with growth and help improve uptime."

And with offices in Houston, Singapore, Qatar and Norway, and other locations in places like Australia, Indonesia, India and the United Arab Emirates, RigNet has a huge distributed network to manage.

Recently, RigNet has started to deploy Envoy 2.0 from Uplogix, an Austin, Texas-based vendor of network support appliances. Envoy is an automated network management tool that works out-of-band to monitor, troubleshoot and configure distributed network devices.

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"We're on hundreds of oil rigs and platforms all over the world," Tabin said. "If we have some [network] issues in France, we don't have people in France. This gives us the ability to diagnose problems remotely without having to fly out network engineers."

Bill Talbot, Uplogix's marketing director, said Envoy 2.0 is a pizza-box-sized appliance that can be collocated with other network equipment, like routers and switches, to "constantly monitor and manage devices." Because it is out-of-band, it can work when connectivity is lost or disrupted.

According to Tabin, Envoy's virtual network administration gives on-site management capabilities in tough-to-staff, far-off locations without actually being there. It cuts down on the burden to physically manage the company's network devices.

Envoy can be set up to fix problems as they arise, Tabin said.

"A network manager can say, 'Hey, if this problem occurs, I want you to fix it just like this,'" he said. "Instead of having to baby-sit your network, you free up your folks to do something else. It saves time and money."

Dennis Drogseth, vice president of Enterprise Management Associates, a Boulder, Colo., research firm, said Envoy 2.0 is a must-have for companies with several remote locations.

"This is a good solution," he said. "It fills a void, especially in remote locations or distributed environments with a need for centralized control.

"Its applicability to the network's edge is also unique and serves a generally unaddressed need, namely reducing remote support costs for branch office networks that are becoming increasingly more complex and more demanding," Drogseth said.

Talbot said Envoy 2.0 runs continuously and can address 95% of the issues that regularly cause services outages in distributed networks, such as configuration errors, device failures and telecommunication faults. It recognizes trouble spots and immediately cycles through a list of recovery options. From there, a fix can be executed automatically or network administrators can be alerted to provide the data needed to remedy the problem.

Envoy is managed through the Envoy Management Station (EMS), a centralized, Web-based portal that can manage hundreds of Envoy systems. The EMS gives a full inventory of the infrastructure equipment linked to Envoy. From the EMS console, staff can schedule and coordinate all maintenance and management operations and can review all data collected and audited by the system.

"The bigger and more distributed the network, the better," Talbot said.

Envoy comes in a standard four-port option for $2,800 and an enterprise model with up to 20 ports for around $7,500. The EMS goes for $12,500.

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