Packet Design's 'TE Explorer' Offers Industry's First Real-Time Visibility Into MPLS Traffic Engineering

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Solution Monitors Traffic Engineering Tunnels Across MPLS Core, Helps Ensure Critical Service Traffic, Aids Planning

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TE Explorer is the missing link in traffic engineering management that service providers have been looking for.

Packet Design has introduced the first network management product to give service providers a real-time picture of MPLS-TE (Multi-protocol Label Switching—Traffic Engineering) tunnels, which are used by the world’s leading Service Providers to carry critical customer traffic across their MPLS core networks.

TE Explorer, a comprehensive solution for managing networks with MPLS-TE tunnels based on RSVP-TE (Resource Reservation Protocol—Traffic Engineering), lets service providers visualize all of their traffic engineering tunnels, monitor their stability, verify their fault tolerance, and analyze their traffic utilization and bandwidth availability. Equipped with this new level of TE tunnel management knowledge, providers can ensure the availability, resilience and performance of sensitive services.

TE Explorer extends Packet Design's foundation technology, route analytics – which provides visibility into real-time, network-wide IP routing paths – to include the ability to integrate MPLS traffic engineering tunnels, which are designed to be able to diverge from IP routing paths in order to optimize traffic delivery throughout the core of an IP/MPLS network. The product supports routers from leading vendors such as Cisco, Juniper, Alcatel-Lucent, and Huawei.

Deeper, More Dynamic Insight into Critical Traffic Engineering Tunnels

Previous solutions aimed at MPLS traffic engineering management gather information on a periodic basis, providing static snapshot views of primary TE tunnel status. But they provide no insight into dynamic changes occurring to TE tunnels, nor do they offer any visibility into the status of backup and Fast Re-Route (FRR) tunnels, which provide critical fault tolerance capabilities.

"Existing traffic engineering management products have offered some insight into how traffic engineering works in normal circumstances," said Jeff Raice, Packet Design's executive vice president of marketing and business development, "but dynamic changes to tunnel paths, utilization, available bandwidth and fault tolerance go completely unseen. Without this essential management visibility, when problems occur, service providers have no way to find the root cause of issues that are impacting the health of their most sensitive traffic.

"The reason is that traditional methods for gathering detailed information on traffic engineering tunnels typically exert a high level of overhead on the network, requiring data-intensive downloads of configuration files from every router in the network. Since this is impractical to do more than once a day, most management tools settle for less detailed, SNMP polling-based techniques that only provide a small subset of needed visibility into complex traffic engineering operations. This has made effective TE tunnel monitoring, troubleshooting and routine planning practically impossible for network managers.”

TE Explorer provides integrated IP routing and traffic engineering visibility across the service provider's entire network. All primary, secondary and FRR tunnels can be visualized and analyzed in the context of underlying OSPF and IS-IS routing. Service providers can view lists of all tunnels, assess their available bandwidth and traffic utilization, examine their protection, and investigate anomalous conditions. Operators can monitor real-time changes to tunnels due to link failures, shifts in link bandwidth availability, and periodic tunnel re-optimizations. Network engineers can view the tunnels on particular links, see how their traffic utilization contributes to overall link utilization, and drill-down into traffic on individual links or tunnels by CoS or other attributes. Service engineers can examine traffic engineering from a top-down perspective by viewing tunnels that carry specific MPLS VPN or Internet customer traffic. And troubleshooters can rewind the network's routing and TE tunnel state to a previous point in time when an intermittent problem may have been occurring, easily view all tunnel changes during a specific period of time and trace the historical path of a specific tunnel that was experiencing instabilities.

“TE Explorer is the missing link in traffic engineering management that service providers have been looking for,” said George Carey, Managing Director of ISP Operations atBroadview Networks, a national integrated communications service provider based in New York. Broadview Networks was recently named to the InformationWeek 500 list of top technology companies for 2010. “With more than 50,000 hosted OfficeSuite™ VoIP stations in service across the country, we need to ensure that all of our customers’ business-critical and highly sensitive traffic is delivered reliably and predictably. We’ve chosen TE Explorer to help us ensure that we can maintain top-notch operation of our core network traffic engineering and continue to deliver excellent end-user service quality.”

How TE Explorer Works

TE Explorer can be deployed as a single appliance and does not require a widespread deployment of hardware probes. A TE Explorer appliance passively peers with and records update messages from IGP routing protocols and their traffic engineering extensions (OSPF-TE, IS-IS-TE), along with BGP and multi-protocol BGP (MP-BGP) messages that support MPLS VPN service routing. TE tunnel information is collected through a three-phase process that minimizes network overhead, including an initial full exploration to discover all TE tunnels, occasional lightweight tunnel change explorations, and real-time tunnel change tracking triggered by IGP routing updates, Syslog and SNMP trap alerts.

TE Explorer offers the following capabilities:

  •     Tunnel status monitoring: Alerts can be triggered to indicate changes in tunnel status, configuration, path, and bandwidth availability, when TE protection is compromised by primary and secondary tunnels sharing the same physical infrastructure, or when FRRs are long-lived because the primary tunnel cannot establish a new path.
  •     Forensic troubleshooting. TE Explorer records a complete history of all routing and TE tunnel events, which network engineers can “rewind” and “replay” to examine network conditions at the time a problem occurred. This lets them easily diagnose complex and hard-to-detect problems such as intermittent tunnel failures, which can severely degrade service traffic delivery.
  •     Modeling and planning. TE Explorer continuously records and provides a completely accurate and up-to-the-minute topology, rather than an offline, outdated model. Network planners can simulate failures or changes such as adding new links, routers, and tunnels and immediately see what their impact will be on the topology.
  •     End-to-end traffic (Netflow) analysis. Used in conjunction with Traffic Explorer, TE Explorer can show flow-level traffic information for all TE tunnels, links, and MPLS VPNs, including breakdowns by CoS, VPN customer or custom traffic groupings.

TE Explorer can scale to support the largest Service Provider networks with thousands of routers and TE tunnels. The product can optionally be deployed in a two-tier, distributed architecture consisting of distributed Route Recorders which record and monitor routing and TE tunnel events and status. Route Recorders forward their information to centralized Modeling Engines, which synthesize topology views from the various Route Recorders and provide a centralized user interface for interactive, network-wide analysis and modeling.

Pricing and Availability

TE Explorer is available immediately. Pricing for a complete entry-level configuration starts at approximately $150,000 (U.S. list).

About Packet Design, Inc.
Packet Design, Inc. pioneered the field of route analytics and is the leading supplier of network appliances that provide routing-layer visibility into IP networks. The company's products create an accurate layer 3 topology map, analyze routing events, and provide a unique end-to-end, "path-aware" view of network traffic (including MPLS-VPN customer traffic), letting network engineers quickly pinpoint network problems and accurately model changes. Packet Design solutions help manage networks in hundreds of organizations, including many of the world's largest service providers, global enterprises (financial, retail pharmaceutical and other firms), government agencies and educational institutions.

Packet Design was founded in March 2003 by serial entrepreneur and former Cisco Chief Technology Officer Judy Estrin and former Cisco Chief Scientist Van Jacobson. For more information, visit

Company contact:
Jeff Raice
Packet Design, Inc.

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