Sunday, 27th September 2020

The Importance of Visibility in Network Agility

One of the hottest topics in IT today is network agility. It’s become a major focus and goal for network operations (NetOps) teams. As a matter of fact, Gartner even ranked it third on the list of the top 10 trends impacting infrastructure and operations in 2019. By Jay Botelho, Director of Engineering at LiveAction.

The term network agility refers to the degree to which an organization’s network infrastructure can leverage automated configurations and policies to self-manage and operate “autonomously.” But it’s also commonly used to describe when NetOps teams are equipped with tools that provide visibility, flexibility and scalability, which are required to manage and respond to the major technologies and trends impacting their connected businesses.

The widespread, ongoing adoption of innovative technologies related to SD-WAN, cloud services, 5G, etc. means that today’s networks are in a constant state of flux. Although these technologies offer tremendous business benefits, they can also add tremendous complexity as well, creating major obstacles that prevent network agility. For example, NetOps teams today report dealing with issues like a lack of visibility across all domains of the network, spending too much time troubleshooting, and an inability to proactively monitor the network. It’s virtually impossible to achieve the level of network agility that businesses require today with these obstacles standing in the way.

In order to better understand how to achieve network agility, let’s take a closer look at this concept.

Networks Are Getting More Complex

As the number of mobile devices, cloud-based networks and applications have continued to increase, network teams are decreasing in size and struggling to find ways to monitor everything effectively and meet the network agility needs of the business. And of course, end-users, partners, customers and executives still expect a high-performing network. This challenge won’t go away any time soon – it’ll only become more complex and difficult for NetOps to monitor effectively as more new technology initiatives, devices and applications are introduced. Just look at recent IDC projections that predict the SDN market will reach $13.8B by 2021, or the fact that 75.4B IoT devices will be in use by 2025, according to IHS forecasts.

In order to achieve a level of network agility that supports business objectives today, NetOps teams need better visibility and troubleshooting capabilities. Legacy tools designed for highly specific network domain use cases like VoIP and video quality simply won’t cut it today. Without granular insight into every aspect of the network, IT teams are left with major blind spots, which can lead to unnecessary and time-consuming troubleshooting tasks and downtime that can put the business in jeopardy.

To compensate for blind spots caused by the use of legacy tools, many network teams purchase various point solutions to monitor specific parts of the network. In fact, according to EMA research, 83% of enterprises use multiple monitoring tools, 49% use between four and 10 NPMD tools; and 27% are using more than 11 tools. That’s too many tools! With individual subscriptions, service contracts, renewal programs, etc. for each, the costs can be exorbitant. But beyond those factors, the lack of integration and cumbersome workflows involved with toggling between that many solutions can stymie the productivity and effectiveness of NetOps teams, which can cost businesses even more dearly. Having to rely on more than 10 tools to manage the network doesn’t sound very agile, does it?

How Does NetOps Remain Agile?

NetOps teams need to properly maintain and optimize today’s increasingly complex networks if they want to achieve network agility. As such, NetOps teams need unified, single-vendor network performance monitoring and diagnostics (NPMD) solutions. A centralized solution can provide NetOps with complete insight across the entire enterprise from SD-WAN and wireless environments to the cloud and more. Also, having a single solution will significantly reduce costs and eliminate the industry-wide tool sprawl issue.

Rather than using several solutions to piece together the different sets of data, centralized solutions can ingest multiple data types in a single solution from packet data to SNMP and NetFlow to IPFIX, and more. Multiple data sets provide IT administrators with a comprehensive and real-time view of the network. When teams have access to multiple data sets, they’re able to see the whole picture and use the data for root-cause analysis. This enables NetOps to proactively monitor and identify issues across the network, regardless of the complex network initiatives or technologies involved.

Unified NPMD solutions provide NetOps teams with the level of visibility and agility needed to keep up with the rising demands, changes and issues of today’s complex networks. Ultimately, this better enables NetOps to reach their goals while supporting the business and the bottom line.

By Craig Stewart, CTO at SnapLogic.
By John Crawford, General Manager International 5G at Verizon.
By Steve Miller-Jones, VP edge strategy and solution architecture at Limelight Networks.
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