Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Why Settle for Just “OK” Network Operations?

network-2402637_1280.jpg

Data Center
(Image: Pixabay)

More often than not, just “OK” is not an option. After all, OK expectations can only lead to OK outcomes. This is showcased in a recent popular advertising campaign from AT&T, which depicts scenarios where just OK is not acceptable, portraying an “OK surgeon,” “OK babysitter,” and “OK tattoo artist.” While the commercials are comical, they bring to light some of the very real and not so funny problems that many businesses and specifically IT teams are dealing with.

With the explosion of the internet of things (IoT) and advancements in automation, artificial intelligence (AI), software-defined networking (SDN), and DevOps, many IT professionals are realizing that the processes they once relied on to manage critical areas of the network have become just OK. And when it comes to network operations, just OK is not OK. Networks today are mission critical, often relied upon to keep the entire business up and running. In fact, according to Gartner, the average cost of network downtime is around $5,600 per minute – a massive expense for any organization, especially when you factor in the amount of time it typically takes a network team to troubleshoot an issue using OK, aka manual, methods.

As our IT environments continue to transform, our processes must as well. The role of the network engineer has already evolved to include much more responsibility than ever before, and currently, many are struggling to juggle everything on their plates. As a result, there are several areas where IT teams have accepted an OK standard, but it's not too late to transform OK to actually effective and efficient.  

An OK approach for complex dynamic networks

SDN is beginning to show some real benefits to organizations that are implementing the technology to create efficient, centralized network management, roll out new applications and services with greater agility, enhance security and reduce operational costs. On the flip side, however, SDN also brings on new operational challenges, creating hybrid network environments where SDN architecture is merged with traditional data center and MPLS networks. These hybrid environments are incredibly complex, consisting of hundreds and thousands of components and undergoing constant change. As the networks continue to become more complex and dynamic, significant visibility issues are created for network teams.  

Ideally, network engineers are able to see both SDN and non-SDN networks side-by-side so they can visualize the physical and logical interconnections and correlate the layers of abstraction at any moment. This visibility becomes critical especially during troubleshooting when speed is of the essence. Remember, downtime can cost an organization $5,600 per minute – with the ability to directly impact the bottom line. Unfortunately, existing troubleshooting and mapping strategies like CLI and network diagramming are less effective in complex hybrid networks, forcing IT teams to race against the clock to identify an issue, increasing MTTR (mean time to repair). End-to-end visibility across hybrid networks is essential for being able to identify and mitigate potential issues quickly. Without it, existing processes are just OK.

Automation takes things up a notch, far beyond just OK, allowing teams to view both traditional and application-centric infrastructure as well as data integration with the SDN console in a single view. This enables enterprises to acclimate to an application-centric infrastructure and understand how application dependencies map to the underlying fabric. In hybrid environments, where abstraction can lead to a cloudy view of the network, automated processes and the right data integration can give engineers the dynamic visibility they need.

OK collaboration between network and application teams

As networks become more software-defined and application-centric, the line between the application and network team starts to get blurry. The two often spend time blaming the other department for an issue and rarely take a collaborative approach to troubleshooting. As long as applications depend on the network to function and companies depend on applications to conduct business, the blame game between the two for slow performance, downtime, or otherwise will continue – that is if just OK network processes are in place.

Not only is there tension between applications and network teams, but there’s also a big knowledge and skills gap between the two, which brings new challenges as network projects start crossing over into application territory and vice versa. This is where automation and visibility come into play. Automation can help network engineers apply existing knowledge to these new environments and allows for IT teams to share their critical knowledge effectively – whether that be design information, troubleshooting steps or network change history. By providing a common visibility framework during troubleshooting and security and enabling teams to codify and share best practices, automation transforms OK IT communications living in silos, to effective collaboration for better results.

As organizations continue to invest in the latest technology and as a result, networks continue to grow in size and complexity, it’s become clear that automation is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. Traditional methods of network management simply don’t cut it with the hybrid environments of today. Stop settling for OK outcomes from your IT operations when automation can ensure the network is performing at its best.