Fluke Networks announced last week a major new inline network test tool. NetTool VOIP offers a breakthrough in VOIP (voice over IP) troubleshooting technology with an industry-first "edge testing" approach.

The tool combines cable, network, IP phone and PC configuration testing into a single device. NetTool VOIP puts the power of inline testing in the hands of the front-line technicians, meaning fewer problems are escalated to higher-level engineers with more complex tools. In addition, the new features of NetTool VOIP give users the ability to monitor VOIP service at the edge, enabling technicians to see into VOIP calls by connecting between the phone and the network.

"NetTool VOIP cuts down the time it takes to troubleshoot IP phone deployment and close trouble tickets," said Dan Klimke, Fluke Networks Marketing Manager for Portable Network Analysis. "Technicians now can quickly determine if the problem is the cabling, switch port, phone or configuration."

As an edge tool, NetTool complements other high-speed link analysis products from Fluke Networks including OptiView Protocol Expert and Link Analyzer. Combined with NetTool, IT professionals have a powerful new set of monitoring and troubleshooting tools. With NetTool VOIP, technicians can now see the quality of calls in progress by measuring the RTP stream and displaying the number of frames, frames dropped and out of sequence frames, and jitter. Call setup, configuration and tear down signalling are all visible to the user.

NetTool VOIP covers the entire spectrum of tasks required to deploy IP phones to the desktop so network managers can realise faster, less expensive and more reliable IP phone deployments. The handheld tool decodes and displays critical boot events, call control and call quality information.

The Boot Log displays key boot events such as DHCP address acquisition, DNS lookup of call servers and gateways, downloading of operating files, and call server registration. NetTool VOIP supports complete troubleshooting of the IP phone boot process including physical layer tests of structured wiring, patch cables, switch port configuration, VLANs and PoE voltage.

The VOIP Log displays call control events, QoS configuration, and call quality metrics. The log records call setup, configuration, and tear down of a call in progress. As the call proceeds, the RTP configuration is displayed including IP addresses and ports used, VLAN priority or Diff Serv and codec. Once the call is competed, the log displays the RTP quality metrics such as jitter and dropped packets.

The VOIP Monitor feature tracks call quality in progress by measuring the RTP stream and displaying the number of frames, dropped frames, out of sequence frames and jitter. The monitor also displays RTCP endpoint information such as jitter and dropped packets. Statistics are available for both the phone side and the network side while a call is in progress.

In addition to powerful VOIP testing capability, NetTool now features Key Device Watch software. Based on Ipswitch's popular WhatsUp network monitoring program, Key Device Watch enables users to discover and monitor their top 10 critical devices such as e-mail or Web servers, and receive alerts about any problems via e-mail, sound, or visual pop-up, in order to speed problem resolution. A trend analysis feature, which tracks network diagnostics over time and displays graphical reports and charts of historical data, is also part of this software package.