Touchstone Technologies, headquartered in Hatboro, Pennsylvania, 30 minutes west of Philadelphia, is an innovative provider of test and measurement solutions for voice and video communications over IP networks. The company's roots go back to a predecessor company, Delta Protocol Test, from the 1980s.
Touchstone today provides both active and passive testing solutions ranging from SIP load generators and feature/function testers to protocol analyzers and distributed monitoring and diagnostic solutions for SLA reporting. Touchstone Technologies markets their solutions to 'tier one' carriers, leading equipment manufacturers, defense departments, and enterprises, including Alcatel Lucent, AT&T, Cisco, Ericsson, Global Crossing, Intel, Qwest, and the U.S. Department of Defense, to name a few.
Touchstones products fall into several broad categories, including: Call Generation, IP Communications Monitoring, VoIP Analysis Tools, and VoIP Utilities.
The Call Generation tools include WinSIP and WinH323. WinSIP is a powerful software solution for testing SIP infrastructures, including the capabilities for generating bulk calls, performing feature and function testing, and testing advanced media capabilities (see Figure 1). WinSIP can provide high-density loads at incredible rates without the need for any specialized equipment. Using this software, a mid-tower PC can generate nearly 1,000 simultaneous calls with perfect G.711 audio streams and nearly 2,000 with G.729. WinH323 has similar capabilities, but is targeted at network engineers supporting IP telephony and videoconferencing systems using the H.323 protocol. WinH323 is capable of generating hundreds to thousands of simultaneous calls with audio and video.
For call quality monitoring, Touchstone provides the Net Observer, a carrier-class monitoring and diagnostics solution for voice and video over IP communications. Net Observer consists of software probes located at or near the customer premises and one or more aggregators that are typically located in the service providers network operations center (NOC).
Net Observer provides more than 125 metrics for every call and reports call detail records in real time. The detail records are stored in a SQL database, allowing the results to be integrated into existing reporting systems through flat files, SNMP-based network management systems, or the RADIUS protocol. The software probes can scale in capacity from 4 to more than 1,000 calls.
Protocol and media analysis is accomplished using the companys WinEyeQ product, a voice and video monitoring and analysis engine that includes extensive watch and alarming mechanisms. The software runs on a standard PC and has the ability to analyze data streams containing simultaneous calls with audio and video, with capacities for up to 400 calls with G.711 media, 1,000 calls with G.729 media, 7,500 signaling-only calls, and 25,000 packets per second. Packets that are captured can be analyzed and displayed on the screen or saved for subsequent analysis.
WinEyeQ provides three key functions. The voice and video analysis capabilities allow the testing of both individual call metrics and key performance indicators (see Figure 2). Second, the monitoring functions allow the product to be used for both analysis and distributed call monitoring, functioning as a probe within the Net Observer system (see Figure 3). Third, the diagnostics functions that include alerts, alarms and watches, allow the system to isolate calls and send notifications via SNMP when problems arise (see Figure 4).
Lastly, the TraceBuster series of utilities offer a protocol and media analysis tool built on the WinEyeQ analysis engine. Three different versions are available: a free utility that can be downloaded from the companys website; the TraceBuster Pro that includes media analysis; and the TraceBuster QoS that includes Telchemys VQMon engine.
The breadth of the Touchstone product linecoupled with the fact that they are 100 percent software-based solutions, making their price/performance appealingyield a suite of network management applications that are worthy of consideration. And Touchstone makes that product evaluation even easier by offering demonstration versions of the WinSIP, WinEyeQ and Win323 products available for free download from their website.
Further details on the Touchstone Technologies architecture and products can be found at www.touchstone-inc.com. Our next tutorial will continue our examination of vendors network management architectures.
Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2008 DigiNet Corporation ®, All Rights Reserved
Mark A. Miller, P.E., is President of DigiNet Corporation®, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.