Robust monitoring solutions provide commanding view of network operations.
In ancient Norse mythology, the god-king Odin presided over the universe from a magnificent golden throne — a towering perch with a view of the entire cosmos, which allowed him to see everything that happened among gods, giants, elves, dwarfs and men. Today’s IT administrators oversee their realms from simple ergonomic swivel chairs, but with the right monitoring tools and services they can gain almost mythic visibility into the network universe.
Given the critical nature of today’s data networks, monitoring solutions play an all-powerful role in operational efficiency. They deliver real-time visibility into network performance and infrastructure, making it possible to identify warning signs of potential problems before they disrupt business operations.
“Despite the challenges faced by organizations with rapidly growing and complex network environments, the ability to capture network data has never been more important,” said Bob Laliberte, senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group. “Network outages have proven to be disastrous from the cost of downtime alone. Organizations need to ensure they have effective monitoring solutions in place that will enable them to maintain network availability in the face of increasing data center complexity.”
For years, basic network monitoring solutions involved gathering data from agents running on network devices. Using a network protocol such as SNMP, agents would transmit information about a variety of performance metrics such as availability, throughput, bandwidth utilization and latency. When these metrics approached a threshold that would indicate a problem, an administrator would be notified. While those capabilities remain at the core of network monitoring, new technologies with bigger workloads are making it difficult to identify issues and trigger rapid responses.
Technologies such as software-defined networking, virtualization, cloud infrastructure and mobility add to network workloads and complexity. At time same time, organizations of all sizes increasingly require the ability to monitor, analyze and optimize performance across both wired and wireless networks, and public, private and hybrid cloud resources.
VoIP and unified communications (UC) platforms also create monitoring challenges. With data traversing corporate backbones, the Internet, and wired and wireless networks, VoIP service degradation has become tricky to troubleshoot. Traditional VoIP monitoring solutions track quality metrics, but often fail to pinpoint exactly where in the network a problem is located or to correlate performance to underlying network changes.
The Right Tools
The newest generation of network monitoring tools are designed to ease the strain by delivering reliable network visibility, proactive management and forensic analysis to protect corporate assets and maximize application delivery. These tools can scale to millions of objects, using dozens of different protocols to monitor the entire network, server, storage, cloud and virtual infrastructure with no practical limits.
Detailed reports can be generated almost instantly, no matter how large the network. In addition to typical metrics, the latest solutions can identify resources that are operating far below thresholds for CPU usage, memory and other metrics — giving organizations the ability to recognize and reuse underutilized resources for improved cost efficiency.
New dashboard interfaces allow administrators to not only troubleshoot problems, but disconnect devices or throttle bandwidth if necessary. These dashboards often feature Google Maps-like overlays to provide visualization of network paths, which is particularly useful in identifying routing problems that affect VoIP call quality.
The business value of effective monitoring and management has never been greater. Rigorous monitoring delivers significant bottom-line benefits by reducing the risk of disruption and speeding the discovery of outages when they do occur. Additionally, monitoring tools can help ensure the successful launch of new technologies and services by determining if the network is capable of supporting the modification without disruption.
Network monitoring can also be a powerful weapon in the fight against malicious intruders. Collecting data and reporting on security systems such as firewalls and virus scanners helps organizations recognize and quickly remediate problems with security resources, greatly reducing the risk of malware attacks.
However, gaining the full value of these tools does require a significant level of in-house expertise. For some organizations, it can make more sense to outsource network monitoring to a managed services provider who has already made investments in monitoring tools that are managed by a team of IT professionals. Outsourcing can provide not only reliability and budget relief, but ensures that tools are consistently upgraded to match growing network complexity.
Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, and Odin relentlessly pursued it — the Norse myths say he invented writing and poetry, and sacrificed an eye for a chance to drink from the Well of Knowledge. At a time when increasing network complexity can obscure visibility into critical infrastructure and operations, IT organizations must also tirelessly pursue information. In-depth information about devices, applications, connectivity, traffic and bandwidth utilization is necessary to ensure network performance, employee productivity and customer satisfaction. Network monitoring tools and services can deliver just that type of insight in real time, while also boosting security and protecting the bottom line. All in all, that’s the stuff of legends.