Streaming Telemetry Has Arrived. Why You Should Care?

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About 30 years ago, we began connecting devices such as routers, hubs, and printers to IP networks.  That meant these resources went from being mostly housed in one location like a data center to spread all throughout an organization’s operations.

IT and NetOps teams immediately recognized that they needed a standardized way to monitor and manage those devices remote.  And Presto!  the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) was born.

SNMP made it “simple” for network management systems to request and receive data from the ever-growing numbers and types of devices on our networks.  It did that by providing a standard protocol for collecting and organizing data about managed devices on IP networks, and affecting changes in their behavior –all from afar.

SNMP did its job very well.  For 30 years, it has been a workhorse in the network management realm.  It has helped entire generations of IT professionals to avoid countless network performance issues entirely or fix the problems they couldn’t avoid more quickly.

Thirty years is a great run, but nothing in the tech industry lasts forever.  The very same data models and operations that made this protocol so successful in the past have made it insufficient for the needs of today’s networks.  These include its antiquated ‘pull’ model, polling frequency challenges and the overhead that more polling adds to the network. 

With digital transformation initiatives now dominating IT discussions and plans, software-defined networking and virtualized network services and apps are clearly on the rise.  The problem for SNMP is that it simply can’t keep up with the speed and scale required with next-gen networks.

The fact is, a dynamically provisioned app or network service could be spun up, serve its purpose, and be taken down well within the span of a typical five-minute SNMP polling cycle.  When that happens, any management tool using SNMP will essentially see nothing which means the IT and NetOps teams relying on them are flying blind.  That lack of granular, real-time network visibility is what ultimately will bring the curtain down on SNMP. 

How will the industry move forward to bridge this gap?  The answer is streaming telemetry.

Monitoring and managing what’s next

Rather than being initiated at the management tool and reaching down into devices via polling, streaming telemetry originates at the device and maintains a mostly northerly track up to one or more systems that subscribe to the telemetry stream.  It uses a push-based model to continuously stream the needed performance data from devices to management systems.

The continuous nature of the data flow eliminates the SNMP-style polling of devices altogether. Essentially, it’s a one (device) to many (management tools) publishing model. Gone are the endless repetitive requests from management tools to devices. And since most organizations use more than one management tool, streaming telemetry eliminates the polling requests that were coming from multiple management tools, thereby driving exponential reductions in overhead.

Instead, streaming telemetry uses a policy-based approach, enabling the devices to know what data is required, the frequency of collection, and where the data needs to be sent. Streaming eliminates the inefficiencies of polling and is the mechanism that gives network operators the operational data they need to stay on top of next-gen networks and infrastructures. For IT and NetOps teams, this real-time, analytics-ready data helps them to work more effectively across a range of areas including network automation, traffic optimization, preventative interventions, and faster and more effective incident remediation.

Network monitoring in HD

Remember the Wow! factor you experienced the first time you saw an HD TV?  From a network monitoring perspective, streaming telemetry has the potential to provide the same type of dramatically better experience. Because network ‘pipes’ no longer need to accommodate all the overhead associated with lots of polling requests and responses, those pipes can be filled with more useful stuff - like more data. That’s how streaming telemetry will be able to, among other things, create HD-like visibility and insights into the performance status of the devices, services, and apps in next-gen networks and infrastructures. 

HD Is here today

Customers of vendors including Cisco, Juniper, Arista and more can turn on streaming telemetry in their existing devices today.  Cisco, for example, has upgraded its IOS operating system, which opens the door to streaming telemetry for everything from their routers and switches to their VoIP phones and other UC gear.  The company’s early, streaming telemetry-enabled offerings include Cisco IOS XE, XR and Nexus OS with Model-Driven Telemetry.  Not to be outdone, Juniper Networks has done the same with upgrades to its Junos OS and Arista with Arista EOS.

Where Cisco, Juniper and Arista lead, most other vendors will follow.  So, it won’t be long before something like 80 to 90 percent of all currently deployed managed devices will be streaming telemetry-enabled. That includes the familiar devices in your network! 

As this transition gains momentum, and the effectiveness of the polling model fades, new monitoring and management capabilities become key elements of success with streaming telemetry. With real-time device data flowing in from every corner of their networks, organizations will need faster, more flexible, and more scalable ways to consume that data, draw insights from it, and act quickly on that intelligence.