Greater Media Detroit Stays on Air with Network Monitoring

How one media company troubleshoots network issues with Intermapper


These days, keeping three radio stations on the air requires constant network monitoring; if a switch fails or services slow down, listeners can hear it. That’s why Mike Kernen, Chief Engineer at Greater Media Detroit, turned to Intermapper network monitoring, mapping, and alerting software. Ping and SNMP probes monitor network and broadcast equipment. With Intermapper constantly displaying real-time network performance information and alerting Kernen to current and potential issues, he’s discovered root causes for several hard-to-diagnose problems and made important fixes.

Listeners Want Uninterrupted Programs

As radio stations have traded collections of LPs, tape decks, and triple deck cartridge players for sophisticated network equipment, radio engineers have had to become network managers. Their charge is to ensure the uninterrupted performance of increasingly powerful technology because, as Kernen put it, “Listeners hear when our networks fail.”

Staying on top of network infrastructures where hundreds of clients are supported by miles of cables and numerous switches and routers is a tough job—especially given the very public 24/7 operational requirements.

Kernen found himself battling several hard to find and difficult to understand network problems that were threatening 24/7 uninterrupted broadcasting.

“We had a switch that would bring itself on and offline at random,” said Kernen. “There was another that would occasionally corrupt data. And we had several occasions when a network attached resource would become unavailable. We’d only notice its offline status when it was urgently needed.”

Eliminating Crises with 24/7 Device Monitoring

Feeling like he was operating a highwire act without a net, Kernen started shopping for network monitoring for media companies that would alert him to network performance issues before there was a crisis. A web search led him to Intermapper and several open source products. “I tried some of the open source stuff,” said Kernen. “None of the products were compelling. Intermapper ran on Mac OS-X and was simple enough for me to learn even though I was unfamiliar with network monitoring software. Once I set up several devices I began to see the scope of what InterMapper can do and I was hooked.”

Kernen’s Intermapper implementation is very straightforward. A Mac mini that sits on his desk is connected to the monitored subnet. A second monitor keeps the network map visible at all times. Intermapper’s built-in probes and SNMP facilities keep him in touch with standard network devices and broadcast specific equipment including the Bird BPME series wattmeters, Audimat RDS encoders, and all of the transmitter remote control equipment.

“For radio engineers, Intermapper’s Ping and SNMP traffic probes are really useful,” said Kernen. “The SNMP probe keeps tabs on my Layer 3 managed switches and broadcast equipment. PING probes monitor network devices that don’t support SNMP. Intermapper polls my Burk ArcPlus remote control equipment with a 20B ping every 60 seconds. Probes don’t add to network traffic and they return valuable information; I can find out if a device is down before I need to communicate with it.”

Intermapper automatically populated Kernen’s network map with port information from his Layer 3 switches and includes information such as location, uses, and port labels that Kernen added via the switches’ HTML interface on the map.

Network Monitoring Saves the Day

Intermapper exposed several previously undetected network “gremlins” allowing the network manager to replace underperforming components and fix other network vulnerabilities. “We’ve plucked several underperforming components and have used Intermapper to organize and gain an understanding about something that, for us, was a very dark and dangerous hole that we had a lot of reliance on,” said Kernen.

Kernen reports that Intermapper has become his “constant companion..... Intermapper collects traps and notifies me of any important failures,” he said. “I’ve tailored its reporting to match the severity of the issue. To say that it has saved the day is an understatement.”

It seems that he has found his safety net.

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