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Product Reviews
June 2000


Surveyor 3.0 with Multi-QoS Plug-In

Shomiti Systems, Inc.
1800 Bering Dr.
San Jose, CA 95112
Fx: 408-437-4041
E-mail: [email protected]
Web site:

Price: Explorer 10/100 Full duplex analyzer - $18,995; Surveyor software - $1,495; Multi-QoS VoIP Plugin to Surveyor software $3,500 (requires Surveyor)

Editor's Choice Award

Installation: 5
Documentation: 4.75
Features: 5+
Operational Testing: 4.5
GUIs: 4.25
Overall: A

The proliferation of VoIP testing tools is a positive indication of the industry's maturity. In the past year, we've reviewed such tools from companies like Digitech, Hammer, CC&T, Shunra, and Netrue. The latest product is Surveyor 3.0, from Shomiti Systems.

The Surveyor 3.0 software, combined with Shomiti's laptop-sized "Explorer" module, makes for a very powerful network analysis and monitoring tool. Beside the traditional network testing tools, Shomiti offers modules for remote access, traffic generation, expert analysis, and Internet telephony QoS, all of which are Windows-based. The Explorer interfaces range from 10Base-T to gigabit, and the unit includes a serial port for VT-100 management.

Installing this product was relatively simple. Using our corporate LAN, we installed the Surveyor software on a Windows 98 computer with a static IP address. We used HyperTerminal to access the Explorer system for basic network setup. For our operational testing, we worked with Microsoft NetMeeting 3.0 -- not exactly creating enterprise-scale traffic, but it worked fine for illustrating the Surveyor/Explorer feature sets. Once the basic setup was complete, we installed the four plug-in modules, which are called Remote, Packet Blaster, Expert, and Multi-QoS. The entire process took about 30 minutes. (Although the product installation is painless, learning and mastering the enormous feature set can take weeks. Our advice is to be patient and tinker.)

There are four important documents for this product. The first is the Surveyor Quick Start guide. This 18-page guide covers the basics like installation, modules, and the primary system views. The basic function and shortcut macros are also discussed here, along with information about where to get more help. Next, there is the Explorer user's guide, which is a 30-page guide to the configuration and specifications of the Explorer module. With its 250 pages, 13 chapters, five appendices, and a glossary, the main Surveyor User Guide is the most important book. Lastly, there is the online help, which is not context-sensitive and is mostly redundant to the printed items.

Overall, we found the documentation to be quite helpful. Features are explained without unnecessary complexity; there are plenty of screen captures, tables, and illustrations, and most of the text is organized in a manner that makes sense. The documentation for the QoS plug-in seems to be more thorough than the documentation for the other plug-ins, but we received good assistance from Shomiti's technical support team on a variety of issues.

Although we examined the entire Surveyor application, we focused on the VoIP aspects for this review. This meant spending some time with the Packet Blaster plug-in, and spending the majority of our time with the Multi-QoS plug-in. The Explorer analyzer modules (officially called "CMMs") reside inside the standard Surveyor GUI. Each module has its own window, labeled by IP address. (Double-clicking on a module reveals the detailed views, discussed further in the Operational Testing section below.)

Access to Surveyor's features is accomplished through the nine pull-down menus, which are File, Configuration, View, Module, Remote, Host, Tools, Window, and Help. There are also "Snoop" and "Sniffer" modes, for viewing data with either the Surveyor modes or in the raw trace mode.

Features of the Packet Blaster module include traffic generation and packet capturing/editing. Packets are assigned by MAC address, and can be generated from eight to 15,000 bytes long, with rates exceeding 100 percent of the network speed. Configurations can be saved as templates, and users can specify stream statistics such as frame rate, burst, and percent of utilization, over all seven network layers. Beside saturation-type creation, packets can be created individually, for precise network or application troubleshooting.

The Multi-QoS features are equally powerful. Measurements can be made for delay, jitter, buffering, packet loss, etc. The plug-in supports H.323, SIP, MGCP, SGCP, and even Cisco's SSP. Also supported are RTP and RTCP, RAS, and voice codecs like G.711, G.723, G.728, G.729, H.261, and H.263. The captured data can be exported to a .CSV file, or it can be examined by call, channel, or decoded packets. Users can also set thresholds, which spawn a system alarm when the network or application conditions are unacceptable for VoIP traffic.

As we mentioned above, mastering this product can take months, and a monthly deadline doesn't allow for such luxuries. So, we concentrated our tests on the Multi-QoS plug-in, while measuring voice- and video-over-IP traffic created with NetMeeting. We made several tests during our network's peak- and off-peak business hours, followed by more tests using the Packet Blaster tool and "The Cloud" WAN emulator from Shunra Software. We know that The Cloud is reliable, and because it shares about 90 percent of the Packet Blaster's feature set, we were able to compare QoS results and check the Shomiti plug-in accuracy.

To begin the test, we went into the Module/Detail View menu. Doing so adds several more toolbars and icons to the GUI. Next, we created and loaded a new capture file. We initiated VoIP traffic over the network for a finite amount of time, and then stopped the capture module. Then, we switched in the Capture View/Multi-QoS menu. The initial Multi-QoS view shows only the individual VoIP call and its affiliated IP addresses, start/end times, etc., but double-clicking this screen reveals another view. The ultimate view is Detail View, where the drill-down method may be used to find errors in specific packets.

Because our tests primarily used the H.323 protocol, we could see how the detailed view(s) followed the process of call requests, setup, and tear-down, using the techniques that are common to the ITU requirements for a protocol stack. This way, not only can you analyze packet errors, you can examine them in the larger scheme of an entire call, which is invaluable for configuring managed IP networks with a voice element.

After several weeks of testing, it became apparent to us that this tool is not for the faint-hearted. We encountered several GUI quirks, which largely reminded us of the way an apparently simple program like HyperTerminal needs to be constantly refreshed when dealing with an outside peripheral. There were occasions when the Surveyor software just didn't act the way it was supposed to, but each issue was solved with a warm reboot and a deep breath by the reviewers. We're not saying that Shomiti engineers should dummy-down the product, because this normally results in some feature sacrifice, but we do feel that the product could benefit from printed or online tutorials designed for both datacom and telecom experts (as most people know more about one than the other).

Surveyor 3.0 with the Explorer module, Packet Blaster, and Multi-QoS plug-ins is a very useful product for predicting, diagnosing, and solving obscure problems in VoIP networks, applications, and services. We highly recommend this product with our Editors' Choice award, but we caution buyers to spend a great deal of time in student mode: this is perhaps the most complicated (and most powerful) Windows telephony tool you will ever use.

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