Success-Story COOP

Fast problem identification with sophisticated diagnosis tool

Coop: Improved network troubleshooting efficiency with the Allegro Network Multimeter

The Coop Cooperative is one of the largest retail and wholesale organizations in Switzerland. The company has around 2.6 million members. Under its own name, Coop operates supermarkets, department stores, pharmacies and much more. In addition, the coop@home online shop enables the ordering of items from the Coop range with home delivery.

The in-time shipments require tailor-made, individual transport solutions and must be carried out with the utmost precision and care. This fundamental link between logistics and IT is already anchored in the definition of logistics: "Logistics is the holistic planning, control, coordination, execution and monitoring of all internal and cross-company information and flow of goods."

The central task of logistics is the sensible design of material movement in logistics networks. However, logistics is no longer just a user of IT. Technological trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing, Big Data and Industry 4.0 are fields of innovation in which the competitiveness of production and trading companies is decided. Logistics plays a central role as a link between information, production and trade. It is driven by IT and itself becomes a driver of IT.

For this reason, disruptions to operational processes must be reduced to an absolute minimum. If problems occur in the IT infrastructure despite all redundancy and precautionary measures, rapid reaction is required.

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Problems with a Java application

As an example, for some inexplicable reason, a Java application did not function smoothly at Coop Logistics. This interrupted cross-company collaboration and fast automated data exchange which resulted in many delays and unnecessary waiting times. Due to the complexity and dynamics of the processes, it was controversial whether the problem was caused by the network or another source. Initial research suggested that the problem was not in the network, but in the supplier's application. A clear indication of the cause of the error or proof of the source of the error could not be unambiguously determined.

In this situation, the Allegro Network Multimeter from Allegro Packets came into play and quickly identified the problem. Installing the Allegro Mobile Network Multimeter took just a few minutes. The device was inserted into the network path before the server in bridge mode for this situation. When the Allegro Network Multimeter operates in bridge mode, all data traffic between adjacent monitor interfaces is transparently forwarded and simultaneously analyzed. In this case, the device acted as a network bridge and there was no need for a separate tap (test access point) to transparently interconnect the line.

One of the many advantages of the Allegro Network Multimeter is that it can be quickly deployed to quickly isolate problems in a targeted manner. The device can also be shipped to a local system administrator who can quickly install it. The network in question can then be analyzed remotely. In many cases, this saves costly and time-consuming business trips.

COOP Branch Office
COOP Branch Office

In this example, following the initial data stream checks, the Allegro Network Multimeter signaled long delays in the Coop proprietary S7 application. The connections affected and the data transmitted over the network were extracted via packet capture (Pcap). The first analysis showed that on the connections;

  • no retransmissions or similar and,
  • only short TCP responses could be detected.

From the information obtained, the first prognosis (‘the error is in the network’) was proven to be incorrect.

For this reason, the S7 protocol data streams recorded in the Pcap were sent to the external supplier’s support department. Thanks to the detailed information provided by the Allegro Network Multimeter, the support engineer or the developer responsible was able to understand the problem within minutes and work out an appropriate solution. In principle, the Jumbo Frames received from the network in the ‘Socket Selector’ of the Java framework library caused the application to reset. As a result, the application had to be restarted which led to the delays recorded by the Allegro Network Multimeter.

Advantages at a glance

  • Easy paket analysis
  • Source of the error quickly apparent
  • SMB version immediatly sofort visible
  • Usable without traing
  • Immediate classification of the specific protocols

Allegro Network Multimeter

Based on the data streams recorded with the Allegro Network Multimeter, it quickly became clear that the Java application always ‘hiccupped’ during the transmission of so-called Jumbo Frames, and that the S7 application affected experienced high latency in some situations. The term Jumbo Frames refers to non-standardized and oversized packets in an Ethernet network. A standard Ethernet packet is 1518 bytes in the IEEE 802.3 standard. Frames that are longer than this are called Jumbo Frames. Jumbo Frames can be useful for some applications, since they reduce protocol overhead and improve efficiency. In addition, the processing overhead of the nodes involved may be reduced because fewer frames need to be processed. Such frames are not standard, and it is important that all network elements can handle these Jumbo Frames if implemented.

By updating the Java library, the problem in the Java-based S7 application was quickly resolved and the Coop servers were back up and running smoothly.

For Coop, the rapid error diagnosis based on the Allegro Network Multimeter meant valuable added-value and increased efficiency, which manifested itself in the rapid identification of errors and reduced troubleshooting time due to the tool-supported analysis of the data.

"The results of the first analyses in the Coop networks were clear after the first use of the Allegro Network Multimeter. Our investment in the product has already paid for itself in just a few weeks of operation," said Roberto Abeledo Alonso, system engineer at Coop's headquarters in Basel. "I also have some comments to make about the support. The competence of the Allegro Packets support team is of extremely high quality. Not only did we get the information we needed immediately, we also get additional ideas for our daily work."