National Principal Architect

Outages cost money. Businesses lose $700 billion a year because of IT downtime. What’s the leading cause? Network interruptions. Nothing communicates when the network is down. Work doesn’t get done. Transactions fail. Customers are turned away. Network outages not only impact applications, servers, and devices but also employee productivity, customer satisfaction, and revenue.

How do we reduce outages and improve the way we manage our networks? Through better network monitoring and troubleshooting—something I call network visibility.

“Wait. I have a tool for that, don’t I?”

You might have several —one for network monitoring, maybe another for troubleshooting, and something else for monitoring application performance. However, a single tool, for most companies, will not deliver all the monitoring and troubleshooting capability that is needed. On top of that, many of these tools are expensive.

Better visibility has a cost. Deploying the tools you need requires an investment. But it’s not limited to the purchase price. Each tool needs care and attention for it to remain viable and effective. That requires ongoing expenditures on software maintenance and training. Otherwise, your sizeable investment could become unusable or obsolete.  

That’s where we are today. Some businesses can’t justify the cost of expensive tools, so they operate the best they can without them. Others can justify the cost and so they invest heavily, resulting in a collection of products, each performing a specific function. The goal is for them to work together but typically they simply coexist.

It’s hard to imagine trying to manage a complex network of thousands or tens of thousands of devices manually. But, in many ways, we still do. And that often leads to problems. According to a McKinsey study:

  • 75% of OpEx spent on the network is used for changes and troubleshooting
  • 95% of network changes are performed manually
  • And 70% of policy violations are caused by human error

In other words, we spend a lot of money on network changes and troubleshooting. It’s just part of operating in a digital world. Many of those changes are performed by people manually. And human error is the leading cause of policy violations and problems.

People are fallible; they make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes cause serious problems. Remember the recent Amazon Web Services outage?

Networks are changing…rapidly. We are moving into an era of intent-based, business outcome -focused networking where flexibility, agility, and availability are critical. Network programmability, software-defined networks (SDN), and intent-based networks (IBN) – to name a few – will be the basis for our next generation networks. That will make network visibility even more essential than it is today.

3 Ways You Can Improve Network Visibility

  1. Find where your gaps are now…and close them.

    Take a good look at your blind spots. Does your toolset report the metrics you need to ensure your network infrastructure meets the SLAs and KPIs required by the business? Are you monitoring at the device and interface level, network services such DNS and DHCP, and application performance?

    There are a wide range of network visibility and monitoring tools available. Some are vendor agnostic with more generic features while others are vendor specific with more hooks into key components of the technology. Many tools offer simple SNMP monitoring, and that may suffice for basic use cases. But look for tools that provide API integration (for devices as well as third-party apps) and programmability features to enable workflows around visibility and troubleshooting.

    If cost is an inhibitor, you may want to consider the option of a managed service. There are managed offerings out there that deliver these “tools” as a service often at a lower price point.

  2. Leverage upcoming upgrades…and enhance them.

    If you have the chance to upgrade technology, take advantage of the opportunity to acquire what you need. Expand your scope, feature set, and minimum requirements with visibility in mind. Infrastructure upgrade initiatives offer an ideal opportunity to evaluate and budget for tools and resources to increase visibility to the network.

  3. Establish criteria for network visibility…and adhere to them.

Don’t limit yourself in the future. When looking at long term infrastructure planning around software-defined networking (SDN) and intent-based networking (IBN) ensure that decision and evaluation criteria include built-in and add-on capabilities around visibility.

As we move forward, we don’t simply want to solve today’s network visibility problems. We want to raise the bar. For help developing a plan to improve your network visibility, click here to get in touch with us or contact your ePlus Account Executive.

 

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