Pity the beleaguered network architect. They jump from crisis to crisis, making sure everything is running well--or at least just running. What they need is a new way to proactively monitor and manage their network, a way that helps them anticipate problems and resolve them before users notice. What they need is service management.
Service management is a set of technologies and organizational principles that promises to save IT from the tyranny of component-level management. Instead of monitoring the operation of separate networking devices--switches, servers, routers, and the like--service management looks at the inter-relationship between them. With IT looking to weld applications together through Web services and virtualize processing across pools of servers, network architects will need this capability to monitor interactions and ensure that the underlying platforms can adapt automatically to new requirements.
While service management was first conceived in the 1980s by mainframe administrators, networking deployments were limited because the means for gathering configuration information was incomplete or ineffective. However, new protocols are being developed that will replace SNMP and allow service management systems to query and modify a broader range of network-connected devices.
With that information pulled into a common database, network managers will have a holistic view of the network. They'll be able to translate application-level requirements into network-level requirements, opening the way for firm SLAs based not on arcane metrics such as packet delay, but on user-level terms such as transaction response times.