NETWORKING

  • 12/07/2018
    6:00 AM
    By Destiny Bertucci, Head Geek™, SolarWinds
  • By Destiny Bertucci, Head Geek™, SolarWinds
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Managing a Chaotic Heterogeneous Network? You’re Not Alone

Today’s reality is multi-vendor, hybrid environments that are hard to manage and secure. Those who can overcome these challenges can deliver greater performance and enhanced functionality for end users.

As organizations continue to grapple with the implications of digital transformation initiatives, IT professionals are increasingly tasked with implementing new technology from multiple vendors while maintaining legacy infrastructure. Long gone are the days where an IT team used one vendor exclusively for every task and network need, and here to stay are networks that take advantage of a variety of new functionalities, from one vendor or several. In this scenario, sometimes having their pick of multiple products and vendors can be empowering. If an experienced technology professional is eager to try features available from a different company (say, experimenting with a programmable network switch from one vendor in an environment dominated by products from another), they now can make that decision without having to tear apart and rebuild their existing system.

(Image: Pixabay)

A modern monster

Of course, it’s never that easy. These complicated combinations often create a “Frankenstein” network architecture and a definite headache when it comes to network management. For example, significant chaos due to the large number of disparate tools, each with their own proprietary data visualization and often lacking the ability to integrate with anything else, is a common hurdle for administrators. Today’s technology professionals must begin to leverage comprehensive visualization strategies to overcome the challenges of modern, diversified network environments and achieve greater performance and overall uptime.

It’s rare to see an organization still operating as a one-vendor shop. Several years back, technology would only operate together if the same company manufactured the solutions, but that’s a concept companies have had to do away with to remain competitive. There are no longer silos around vendors, such as Linux versus Windows. With the right education, technology professionals can successfully use servers, workstations, network, and security products all from different manufacturers.

Despite the admittedly challenging management scenario, there are a few benefits to creating these types of bespoke systems using products from multiple companies. Vendors that provide software and hardware that are compatible with other vendors and legacy models are beginning to even out the playing field. To remain attractive to buyers, they have had to start creating similar products that their end users can understand. This has increased the importance of delivering a user-friendly and somewhat similar product. Most software today, regardless of vendor, includes the same key concepts and attributes to eliminate challenges for the end user.

Another benefit of a multi-vendor environment is security. As a security measure, it’s important to have more than one vendor, especially when it comes to monitoring. If one system goes down, you need to rely on the other one to identify issues and keep the system running smoothly. It’s a best practice to be multi-vendor with your IT security management products to help ensure business continuity.

Taming the beast

Luckily, vendors are aware of this shift in the marketplace and are beginning to adapt to the idea that consumers are becoming less loyal and more opportunistic. At the same time, multi-vendor management and centralized monitoring tools exist, which allow you to simplify your existing IT environment and mitigates the risk of introducing technologies from new vendors.

Many companies running heterogeneous networks are using one tool to view servers, another to look at networks, and a third to view virtualization. When you are not able to view the entire infrastructure, there is a greater risk of overlooking potential vulnerabilities or identifying the root cause of a performance bottleneck or bandwidth issue. Simplifying with centralized monitoring allows you to forecast, plan, and better anticipate issues that are coming down the pipe.  

The key is to find a tool that allows you to monitor and manage all the moving pieces from one centralized solution. IT professionals working in a heterogeneous network need an easy setup, visualization, and the ability to map everything out. With a centralized monitoring system, you can view the network, your security, and your virtualization in silos, while also viewing the health of your infrastructure holistically versus as individual, uncorrelated components.

Chaos simplified

Today’s reality is multi-vendor, long gone are the days of the one vendor shop, and IT professionals are adapting to these new hybrid systems by investing in smart tools. These “Frankenstein” networks can present significant management growing pains, but ultimately help achieve great performance and enhanced functionality for end users. By leveraging comprehensive management and monitoring tools, today’s technology professionals will be able to optimize their multi-vendor environments and better plan for future technology adoption.


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