Let’s talk PoC

20/12/18

Whenever you want to buy something new, you may entertain doubts about a product you have never tried out before. Although the product appears great on paper, often you want physical proof to persuade you that the product is well-suited to your needs.

Here at Flowmon Networks, a company that strives for total customer satisfaction, we vigorously follow Proof of Concept (PoC) procedures to make sure our solution fits well in the customer‘s environment, producing the required results. PoC is documented evidence that a potential product or service can be successful.

Let me describe our PoC process a little more.

1.    Learning about customer’s needs and pain points
Before we start a successful PoC, we have to learn about the customer’s needs and their pain points. Putting a solution on the table and letting the customer play with it will most probably not lead to the desired results. The PoC process must have specific  goals and must be driven towards those goals. PoC needs to show customers the expected value - what they expect and what  they need. Without this information there is no way to tell if the PoC was successful. 

2.    Choosing appropriate Flowmon appliance and modules
Before we can choose the appropriate Flowmon equipment we need to gather detailed information about the customer’s network topology, size, flow export capability and experience with flow based solutions. Through the gathered information we can identify appropriate Flowmon appliance modules, which can address the clearly defined goals.
Now is a good time to have a list of customer requirements and features. These will define the focus of the PoC demonstration.

3.    NetFlow source configuration and hardware installation
The Flowmon solution can use Flowmon probes or other vendor network devices for generating flow data. In this step, devices have to be configured accordingly to the PoC goals. The placement of our probe can be especially crucial for good results. 
Here are some guidelines where to place the probe according to various use cases:
•    Troubleshooting (NPMD), Security (ADS) - core switch
•    Application Performance Monitoring (APM) - close to application server
•    DDoS detection - edge router

4.    Flow data verification
Let me point out that the power of the Flowmon solution depends on the quality of flow data it receives.
So, we check that data arrives and is correct (it includes the information we need for the specific use case).
Of importance is that we can see bidirectional traffic and that the amount of transferred data is correct. Including TCP flags can greatly improve detection in the case of using the Anomaly Detection System module.

5.    Module configuration
Specific modules according to the PoC goals are configured in this step. Normally this configuration is done in cooperation with the customer, as they can provide crucial configuration information on the spot. After this step, a data gathering period starts. This enables data collection, adaptive baselining learning, identifying certain trends, and much more. It is also a good time to configure some profiles, which are relevant for the customer and will give the subsequent solution demonstration more focus.

6.    Flowmon solution value demonstration
This is the first time the customer sees the solution in action in their own network. The demonstration covers best practice and shows what customers can achieve with the Flowmon Solution and the product’s benefits, such as ease of use. But more importantly, the PoC demonstrates how the Flowmon solution fulfils their specific needs. 

7.    PoC evaluation
The last step of the PoC is evaluating the results. It is important to evaluate the PoC whether it was successful. Now is also a good time to check the list made in step 2. Analysing PoCs and learning from them can help us improve our products further to provide more value. 
And there is still one important outcome of PoCs that can prove very useful: NETWORK STATISTICS.
The extracted results can be used for the Flowmon solution sizing, enabling Flowmon to offer a solution best fitting a customer’s needs.

Conclusion
The result of a successful PoC is documented proof to the customer that our solution fulfils their needs and goals. It also makes their decision whether to purchase Flowmon much easier. 

Developing a proof of concept can also help Flowmon identify potential technical issues that might interfere with success, and additionally, will help improve our product even further.