Consolidating M&As with network discovery

Jessica Scarpati
25 Mar 2011

In an ideal world, service providers would grow their networks organically -- carefully selecting and mapping out each device on the network. But in reality, disparate networks are frequently inherited through mergers and acquisitions, often raising questions about how and where new equipment fits into legacy infrastructure.

One wholesale ISP growing through M&As has saved time and discovered previously undetected rogue devices by automating that mapping process with a network discovery tool.

Stellar Association, a consortium of six ISPs in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, was formed so that each service provider could share resources and reduce overall expenses in its local market, according to Stellar CTO Andy Erickson.

Stellar functions as the chief network operator for its member ISP and provides fiber to the home (FTTH), cable, DSL and wireless broadband services to a combined 30,000 subscribers of Farmers Mutual Telephone Company, Federated Telephone, Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association, Red River Telephone, RC Family of Companies and Runestone Telecom.

As Stellar has grown by absorbing new ISPs, the consortium's network engineers have faced increasing complexity with each new network that joins the fold. They have had limited visibility into the individual devices in these new networks.

Engineers need to know more than whether a core router or a DSLAM is up or down, Erickson said. In the event of a service outage or performance problems, Stellar needs an ISP network discovery tool that can map out the physical and logical connections among a large patchwork of devices to make troubleshooting simpler and faster.

"We need to know what's changing, what's evolving and what's plugging into a service provider network," Erickson said.

For the past decade, Stellar has used WhatsUp Gold from Ipswitch for basic network monitoring. The consortium first used WhatsUp Gold to ping devices for outage alerts. As the product evolved over the years, Stellar used it for service-level monitoring, Erickson said.

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