Policy Definition

With NetMotion Mobility, policies prove to be the cornerstone of security and connectivity. Policy management is accomplished using Mobility’s policy module, which allows administrators to create and assign policies to users, groups, devices and so forth. The policies are granular in nature and several specific conditions can be set when defining a policy.

Policies consist of rules and controls, and they are executed on the endpoint. Administrators have the ability to create controls based upon many different attributes, including application name, user name, device name, time of day, network name, SSID, BSSID, protocol, IP address, port number, device ID, interface name, interface speed, interface type, whether or not the interface is tariffed, interface plug-and-play ID, network access control status, operating system version, client version, battery status, an arbitrary registry key value or an externally defined condition.

Based upon the attributes and values used, policies have a defined impact on connections, including allow, block, disconnect, passthrough and bypass traffic. Policies can also be defined to take additional actions, such as launch applications, execute command line arguments, set system parameters, send notifications and so on. Those additional actions prove useful for pushing out additional security settings, such as validating (or installing) malware protection.

Policies are very easy to create and are wizard-driven for the most part, meaning that even neophyte administrators can quickly define and assign policies to get a mobile initiative started in an enterprise.

Performance

One of the most critical elements of any mobile performance management product is the ability to bring acceptable levels of performance to the table. Simply put, enabling secure connectivity means little if the platform does not offer the needed performance for success.

With NetMotion Mobility, there are several technologies at play to maximize performance. For example, the product incorporates traffic shaping, which means administrators can set network priorities and application throttling.

In other words, admins can create quality of service (QoS) policies that control how traffic flows over the network. They can assign low-priority applications limited bandwidth and give more network resources to critical applications, such as VoIP, video and so forth. The QoS policies also incorporate packet loss recovery (PLR), which has become a critical component of real-time data streams, such as voice or video traffic. When packets are lost, PLR works by reconstructing lost packets using information from the packets that were received, without retransmitting the lost packet. Administrators can set PLR levels based upon the amount of packet loss expected, with a low setting for reliable networks and a high setting for networks that are less reliable. PLR can add to transmission overhead, so a low setting may be appropriate for most applications.

NetMotion also deploys other performance enhancing technologies, such as data compression, web image acceleration and fragmentation optimization. All of which help to maintain expected levels of performance and bring connectivity to slower wireless networks where limited performance may have excluded attached devices from being connected to the network.

NetMotion Diagnostics

One of the biggest challenges associated with provisioning and managing a mobile-enabled network comes down to understanding what is actually happening on the network. This situation is further complicated by the fact that administrators have little or no control over external access points, cellular networks or public hot spots.

Solving connectivity problems becomes increasingly difficult when that connectivity information is lacking, and many an administrator finds a lack of consistency when it comes to identifying areas that have weak coverage or inconsistent bandwidth.

The NetMotion diagnostics module gathers up all information related to connections provided by the NetMotion’s software and stores that information so that administrators can perform both real-time and historical analytics on the complete mobility platform, including client devices, NetMotion Mobility Server and any other information that can be gleaned from network traffic.

Interestingly, the tool can mash up connectivity statistics with physical location using device-based GPS feeds. Users can correlate that information to create a connectivity map that shows when GPS feeds were dropped and reestablished — handy information for those enterprises working closely with carriers to establish better coverage and eliminate dead zones.

The diagnostics module offers dozens of reports, charts and graphs that create a visual representation of everything from device usage to network performance to system operations and root-cause troubleshooting. Administrators also can drill down into coverage maps, which use statistics to reveal which carriers are in use, recorded signal strengths, and several other factors.

Mobility also offers trending reports displaying connection windows (time connected), device usage (device trends), compression (data compression trends), adapters (cellular connections), and numerous other factors. What’s more, the collected data is stored in such a way that additional analytical tools can further mine the data.

Conclusions

With its software-defined Mobility offering, NetMotion has successfully melded security, management and diagnostics for enterprises seeking to leverage a mobile workforce. The platform’s ability to gather data and extrapolate actionable insight proves to be unique in the mobile VPN market. Its policy definition and traffic acceleration are valuable allies when it comes to securing mobile traffic while also providing acceptable levels of performance.

For any enterprise that is serious about providing the best possible mobile experience for users, NetMotion Mobility fits the bill.

Frank Ohlhorst is an award-winning technology journalist, professional speaker and IT business consultant. He has written for leading technology publications including Computerworld, TechTarget, PCWorld, ExtremeTech and Tom's Hardware, and business publications including Entrepreneur, Forbes and BNET. Ohlhorst was also the executive technology editor for Ziff Davis Enterprise's eWeek and former director of the CRN Test Center.