Networks today are a mixed bag, comprised of what can be a tangled mess of physical, virtualized, and cloud infrastructure. In order to compete today, businesses are pursuing digital transformation initiatives such as SD-WAN, Network Function Virtualization, and edge computing for a competitive edge. While these technologies offer great benefits, they also add great complexity. The race for a competitive edge inevitably creates interoperability hurdles amongst IT systems. Today businesses must wade through wired and wireless networks, multi-platform, multi-vendor, as well as multi-cloud – each with their own set of complexities. Performance issues inevitably arise, which can cause downtime, and cost a business anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of dollars
One major challenge faced by many network operations (NetOps) teams is the use of too many monitoring tools. The issue of monitoring tool sprawl is far worse than most realize. According to a bi-annual network management study from Enterprise Management Associates, nearly half of all networking pros are using between four and ten tools to monitor and troubleshoot their networks. And nearly one-third of IT teams are juggling 11 or more tools!
Today’s hybrid networks simply demand more. Organizations must anticipate, identify, troubleshoot and resolve a wide array of network issues. An important key to network management is comprehensive visibility, with advanced performance analytics, all through a single pane of glass.
Here are three imperatives for network visibility and management across hybrid networks:
The ability to collect various data sources across all network domains: Whether a team is conducting capacity planning, troubleshooting a critical performance issue, or analyzing an anomaly to achieve true end-to-end visibility across the entire network, teams need insight into a broad range of data sources. From Flow (IPFIX, NetFlow, sFlow, Cflowd, etc.) and SNMP, to packet data (full capture and analytics) and API integrations (REST, Bulk, Stream, etc.), each data source plays a unique and critical role in the overall process of managing the network. Without the ability to consume these different data sources, NetOps can be left with insufficient data that can hinder their ability to manage and troubleshoot the network.
The ability toisualize and interpret that data intuitively in order to take action: It’s not enough to simply have access to every network data type. NetOPs teams need solutions that translate data into simplistic management and troubleshooting workflows. For instance, Flow data from virtual, physical and cloud devices is especially critical to managing and troubleshooting application performance. But, if a network management platform doesn’t allow the team to visualize an applications flow across the entire network – from source IP address to destination IP address – it will be difficult to preserve a positive end user experience. Packet-level data is critical for troubleshooting complex application issues like slow database performance. Visualizing the network path and reviewing the packet data creates performance visualizations that allow NetOPs to resolve issues faster. Whether troubleshooting a VoIP issue or optimizing a new SD-WAN deployment, having granular visibility into all types of network data is imperative to comprehensive network management and control.
The ability to present top-level status updates and reports to executive stakeholders: What good is all this if NetOps can’t clearly communicate its value and progress to executives? Higher ups typically only care about a few key reports and don’t want to be bogged down trying to decipher in-depth networking analytics. How are we doing on uptime? What’s the availability of a particular set of devices, circuits or sites? What caused the minor downtime incident last week? How is the bottom line impacted? There’s a reason they call it an executive summary. If you can't arm executives with this type of critical information, they won't be able to make sounds budgetary, personnel, or business decisions. Teams need management solutions that enable them to generate reports that convey easily-digestible network performance metrics, SLA status, application conditions, and ultimately the merits of their work.
The complexity challenges presented by multi-vendor, multi-platform and multi-cloud IT environments, coupled with the ever-present issue of tool sprawl, makes managing today’s hybrid networks an uphill battle. NetOps teams need access to a wide range of network data sources, to visualize that information coherently, and to act quickly. Imperative is effective reporting on business-critical metrics, in order to successfully manage these complex modern network topologies.