Tools for Network Qualification
As clients, servers, and instruments are connected to a network, the available bandwidth may become dramatically reduced.
This is especially true if the
network is not well segregated, leading to unnecessary broadcast network traffic (for example, between an analytical laboratory
network and the office network). This decrease in bandwidth may result in decreased performance affecting real time processes
(and could even result in data loss as the hospital network example cited above shows).
Modern analytical equipment and the networks within which they operate may be monitored by network analyzer software along
with the clients and servers that control them. This software not only helps operators monitor the health of their networks
but also aids in the qualification of the networks through which the instrument data flows. Network monitoring applications
are commercially available from companies including Agilent Technologies, Computer Associates, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and others.
While software applications provide excellent monitoring capabilities, network qualification may also require powerful network
measurement and test hardware to capture and document network connections, communication activities, available and consumed
capacity, and control data. For regulated lab operations, the challenge is to make network measurements meaningful from a
systems validation perspective. In the meantime, the first examples of metrology-based network assessment and qualification
services designed specifically for laboratory networks have been developed.11
Validation and qualification activities need to consider network infrastructure. The role of network monitoring hardware and
software for the qualification of
networks and for maintaining the qualification status of the network infrastructure will continue to increase.
The authors thank Bob Giuffre, a senior network data system consultant with Agilent Technologies based in New Jersey, for
input to this manuscript and sharing analysis data derived from network monitoring measurements using the Agilent Advisor/Distributed
Network Analyzer and Agilent FrameScope 350 in combination with an Agilent Cerity for Pharmaceutical QA/QC networked data
system and Agilent 1100 HPLC instruments directly connected to the local area network.
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