Integrated Network Management Is A Critical Asset

It seems almost too basic to state, but managing a network begins with understanding the traffic and activity moving across the network. When the company's business includes managing networks for hundreds of other companies, the monitoring functions become more critical and far more complicated.

November 23, 2009

5 Min Read
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It seems almost too basic to state, but managing a network begins with understanding the traffic and activity moving across the network. When the company's business includes managing networks for hundreds of other companies, the monitoring functions become more critical and far more complicated.

Perot Systems is one of the largest system integration and operations firms, building IT systems and continuing their operations for hundreds of clients. Perot had used a number of different applications to manage the networks under its control, but they wanted to bring greater simplicity and functionality to its systems. "We wanted tools that would fit our client base and the needs of our company," says Steve Jacoy, Perot systems' director of network services. "Consolidating tools, increasing functionality, and better ease of use were the main drivers in the decision."

There were, of course, additional considerations. Jacoy says that the increasing expectations of the client base played a major role. "Being able to prove SLAs and show the things the client felt were important was critical. Reporting was another issue -- we need granular reporting," Jacoy says. He explains that Perot has considerations in their tool choice that might not apply to every company as it looks for solutions. "There are a lot of tools you can deploy and achieve certain expectations, but we have a collection of networks. Even as we try to drive standard services, we have to have a degree of flexibility," he says, noting that the individual concerns of their customers must be addressed by any tools they deploy.

Asked about the process that Perot went through in order to find the best tool or tools to meet their needs, Jacoy says, "We did a traditional bake-off. We developed a set of criteria that followed our requirements: What tools allow us to consolidate the various elements, provides reporting and gives a more granular view into the network?"

Meeting compliance targets (and proving that the targets have been met) and custom reporting to clients or regulatory agencies are equally important to take into account. These are among the common tasks that, according to Jacoy, vary widely in implementation from customer to customer. Still others include basic network performance measures. "Trend utilization and performance sound straightforward, but they weren't easy to achieve without third-party tools and probes," Jacoy says. He says that the basic measures are at the top line of information that's required before drilling down into more complex information required to insure that SLAs are being met.Jacoy says that Perot was also extremely concerned about being able to assure their customers that problems, if they arose, could be dealt with in a rapid and straight-forward manner. He points out that CIOs want their suppliers to know what they want, whether the tools are available to give it to them, what the performance of those tools is, and, if they have a problem, what's it going to take to fix it. Being able to deliver on those pieces of information, says Jacoy, drove a great deal of their decision-making.

The answers to the functional questions were critical to the evaluation process, but they weren't the only considerations. Jacoy says that business relationships and the ability of the candidate vendor to continue to meet Perot's needs through a long relationship were significant factors, as well. He says that the company used a rigorous process to make a decision which, in retrospect, seemed simple.

"The relationships you have, existing or not, play into it, then it's an engagement process and going through the functionality testing," Jacoy says. Perot had an existing relationship with a software provider that had a solution the company was using on a limited basis. Entuity had, according to Jacoy, earned the right to be a major player in the competition for the new software. He says, "To Entuity's credit, they made that easy for us. They were very willing to accommodate our specific requirements." Jacoy says that, in the end, the competition was between expanding the internally-developed solution Perot had in place or moving to Entuity EYE as a much more widely deployed solution. There was, Jacoy says, no other real candidate.

Once implementation of the Entuity tools began, the value of the decision was verified. Jacoy says, "I really think that the ease of implementation was substantial compared to the tools we had before. The other piece is Entuity's willingness to meet with us and take care of us. We meet quarterly and talk about where we are and where they are with new releases and they've come through for us with the products and features we need. That was one of the reasons we decided to go forward -- we've had a pretty good track record [with them]."

Looking forward, Jacoy says that it's important to have solid network monitoring and maintenance services in place for two coming trends: virtualization and the cloud. "We're kind of at that point where a lot of, especially large, enterprises are trying to figure out how to go from the traditional infrastructure where they own everything to a more variable cost kind of structure," he says, adding, "Having a tool that allows us to have a good understanding of a virtual environment is key because that will be our driving force going forward. Being able to measure on a unit basis for the unit cost drivers that are coming is an issue as well. While we don't necessarily measure an environment to that degree now, with the Entuity product I can see it happening in the future."It's important to Perot, says Jacoy, that with all the capabilities it offers Entuity has also managed to help on the complexity front. "Being able to consolidate into a single tool, or at least fewer tools, what you're getting from the product is important. All of the infrastructure elements have service levels built around them and being able to report on all of them and manage the complexity is critical," he says.

Today, almost every client where where Perot is managing the network uses Entuity in some form, says Jacoy. He says that some customers use it as a spot solution for specific information gathering, while others use it as their basic monitoring framework, but very few don't use it at all. Having a tool that spans the breadth of their network infrastructures while simplifying the life of network administrators has been a huge win for Perot and its customers, he says.

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