User Story Stadtwerke Unna

How Stadtwerke Unna uses Allegro Network Multimeters to administer its IT networks

Numerous use cases in one: internal networks, service provider for the city and ISP at the same time

Stadtwerke Unna GmbH was founded in 1860 and has always been a municipal utility for green electricity, natural gas, heat, photovoltaics, electromobility and fibre optics. As a service provider, the company supplies around 60,000 citizens in North Rhine-Westphalia and numerous external customers. It also provides additional services for companies within the Kreisstadt Unna group.

Since the beginning of 2021, the service provider has also been acting as an internet service provider. Here, it is important to provide network services of high quality and scope as well as to quickly detect and rectify errors. As a means of choice and all-in-one tool, Stadtwerke Unna has been using several portable Allegro systems for several years. Convinced by this, the company has also been using the more powerful 10Gig Allegro 1000 device since this year.

Logo Stadtwerke Unna

Areas of application of the Allegro Network Multimeter at the public utility company

The Allegro Network Multimeter is used in a variety of ways at Stadtwerke Unna.

On the one hand, the Allegro Network Multimeter is in constant use for network analysis of the internal network. It supports troubleshooting, monitoring and long-term IT planning in equal measure. At the customer's request, the IEC 60870-5-104 protocol (IEC104 protocol) was also implemented in the Allegro platform. The IEC104 protocol facilitates investigations of infrastructure automation, the benefits of which can be realised, improving productivity and reducing the daily workload.

As Stadtwerke Unna is also an ISP, the Allegro Network Multimeter helps to check and ensure the quality of the network. The Allegro platform supports analysis activities as soon as problems occur in the network, e.g. detecting high latencies, retransmissions or uplink utilisation. Thanks to the data provided by the measurement, it can be easily be identified if a weak point is in one's network or if remediation should be sought externally. In this way, the bandwidth quality can be secured over the long term.

Is the fault ours?

In the third use case, Stadtwerke Unna acts as one of the key service providers for companies within the Kreisstadt Unna group for the network of the district town of Unna. In this function, Stadtwerke Unna also works with other external service providers assisting the city IT and often has to quickly analyse where a fault lies. With the Allegro Network Multimeter, the employees of Stadtwerke Unna can save valuable time when analysing and rapidly identify issues, for example, which network is compromised - even without having access to the client and server systems.

In its daily work, Stadtwerke Unna is in a tripartite partnership with IT departments and other external service providers who, for example, administer the server logins (see illustration). If a disruptive factor occurs, it is critical to find out where a problem lies. The easiest and quickest way for Stadtwerke Unna to find out is to connect an Allegro Network Multimeter to the necessary network point. Now it is possible to see what is happening at that point in the network immediately after commissioning.

Kommunikationsdreieck Stadtwerke Unna
Portrait Thomas Hönig-Heinemann
Thomas Hönig-Heinemann, Abteilungsleiter Information und Kommunikation der Stadtwerke Unna

A practical example: An external server service provider may be dissatisfied if there is a suspicion that the ports have not been enabled. In this example, using the Allegro Network Multimeter, the employees were able to quickly measure if any communication was coming from the servers proving the fault was not with the municipal utilities, but with the service provider itself. It sounds like a simple error that can be quickly remedied. But in reality, it is not that simple, because small errors often take an enormous amount of time to be found at all. In addition, finding errors is made more difficult when several parties are working on a project. It may be first necessary to find out on which side the fault occurs to be able to correct it.

For Stadtwerke Unna, the time savings are the decisive factor why the employees are convinced of the Allego Network Multimeters. "I have colleagues in my team who use the Allegro Network Multimeter intensively in the field and hardly export to Wireshark anymore, for example," says Thomas Hönig-Heinemann, Head of the Information and Communication Department at Stadtwerke Unna. Before the purchases of the devices, everyday work looked less comfortable: Expensive, high-performance PCs had to be purchased before the analysis could even begin, the use of Wireshark had to be approved and prepared.

René Schulder analysiert die Kommunikation eines Breitband-ONTs zu einer Fritzbox

Allegro Network Multimeter with great advantages compared to Wireshark

In addition, the analysis with Wireshark quickly becomes confusing and tedious with large amounts of data. The complex Wireshark filter settings, which are required before the actual analysis, have also caused many admins to grow grey hair. With the expert modules of the Allegro Network Multimeter, the analysis is started directly, which means that the needle in the haystack can be found quickly. 

The employees at Stadtwerke Unna often use both tools in combination. "Stadtwerke Unna is doing everything right with this," says Klaus Degner, Managing Director and Product Manager of Allegro Packets. "Because the basic idea with the Allegro Network Multimeter is that the device quickly makes packets visible, which can then be examined more closely."

Allegro 200 (End of Life since 2023) and Allegro 500 as standard equipment in every backpack

Often IT admins have to prove that the problem is not within their sphere of influence. To rule out network problems, employees at Stadtwerke Unna use the small portable Allegro systems Allegro 200 and Allegro 500. Initially, there was one device to be shared between everyone. It soon became clear that this was not enough. Now each employee has his own device in his backpack for fieldwork and is thus well prepared for critical analyses. For larger data volumes, the responsible account manager from Kapsch BusinessCom, Mirco Jakuszeit, recommended a 10Gig device from Allegro Packets, because "the packets don't lie!" says Mirco Jakuszeit with a smile. The Allegro 1000 is now also part of the IT staff's repertoire, which they now use to track down long-term as well as sporadic errors in the network. The portable device was deliberately chosen so that the IT staff can use it flexibly both in their own data centre and on customer assignments.

For Stadtwerke Unna, the Allegro appliances offer many advantages: Not only do the appliances require no installation, are inexpensive and portable, they also have a full range of features and provide raw data with which it is easier to continue working with Wireshark, for example. Working with the Allegro platform can save a lot of money, a lot of luggage due to the compact size and overall a lot of time in finding the vulnerability.

Advantages for Stadtwerke Unna at a glance

  • IEC104 protocol investigations of infrastructure automation
  • Checking and securing the network quality
  • Support in three areas of activity
  • Field operations with portable devices

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This project was accompanied and professionally supported by Mirco Jakuszeit, Kapsch BusinessCom. Kapsch BusinessCom is a company of the Kapsch Group and, as a leading digitalisation partner, supports companies in increasing their business performance and developing new business models. 

Kapsch acts as a consultant, system supplier and service provider. Certified technology competencies combined with comprehensive industry know-how make Kapsch a trustworthy partner with many years of experience in network solutions, collaboration, data centre infrastructure, security and managed services.

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