Network monitoring has never been easy, but it has become far more difficult as the complexity of IT infrastructure has soared.
Part of the challenge is the huge amounts of performance and management data now being generated by growing networks. Another factor is how network monitoring data is accessed continues to evolve. Teams are rearchitecting their networks to accommodate the latest in Wi-Fi, software-defined networking, multi-cloud, SaaS, virtualization, 5G and other technologies.
To keep up, network monitoring systems must be able to collect and analyze data from software-defined control systems and their associated virtual instances and physical devices, and from legacy network resources—at the same time. Complicating this challenge further are entirely new types of network “devices”—like virtual routers—that are being provisioned, and in turn, are producing new types of network data and new ways that data flows throughout the environment.
All of the performance data now being generated for devices and their key indicators needs to be monitored continuously, analyzed quickly and accurately, and when necessary, acted upon rapidly. Doing so with modern networks requires equally modern monitoring approaches.
Step One: Building a Foundation with Comprehensive Coverage
The basic task at hand for NetOps and IT teams is to ensure their networks, and the services and applications that run on them, are working properly. In our highly complex networks, however, things sometimes just get jumbled up or simply break. When that happens, NetOps and IT team members shift into the pressure-packed part of their jobs—identifying, locating, diagnosing and fixing problems quickly. In other words, it’s on these teams to deal with network issues before they trip up too many users and bog down the business.
Most teams are still managing hardware-centric data centers with physical, rack-mounted servers, routers and switches hard-wired with legacy, MPLSbased WAN links, etc. Thanks to digital transformation initiatives, they’re now also responsible for managing a whole new networking world. That world includes things like virtualized network services, SaaS and cloud-based architectures that draw on network resources not on-premise but out in the ether somewhere, software-defined WANs, next-generation Wi-Fi, and more.
Step Two: Overlaying Analytics to Better Understand Performance Data
Every network monitoring solution enables a NOC staff member to look at a particular device such as a core router, and create a report showing, for example, that router’s memory utilization. But that report, in and of itself, is not that useful, especially if that particular staffer doesn’t happen to be familiar with that device.
Let’s say the report shows that there has been a sharp increase in memory usage by that server over the past 24 hours. Is that normal behavior? Is it within an acceptable range? Are things good, bad or about to get ugly? Our NOC person, who is filling in for an expert colleague who’s out sick or on vacation, looking at that single report, has no idea whether what he or she is seeing is okay or about to become catastrophic.
To enable every NetOps and IT person to fast-forward into a position of awareness, and do so with minimal burden, they need to be able to overlay lots of different analytics policies over whatever device, object, or indicator they’re interested in or concerned about. Let’s consider some examples.
Step Three: Adding Context to Highlight Priorities
In modern networking, things that network managers and engineers need to look at are well-known and at some level, fairly consistent from one network to the next. Due to the nature of network resources and the importance of activities they support, they are naturally viewed by NetOps and Engineering teams in the context of their importance to the business.
Modern network monitoring systems can factor in the importance of specific devices and other network resources and include pre-built ways to quickly visualize them to provide users with instant context. Leveraging knowledge of the network devices that are present and the data structures they use, modern monitoring systems provide intuitive ways for users to easily see and quickly understand what is happening in their network environments.
Step Four: Building Reusable Visualizations and Reports
A stubborn challenge for network teams is monitoring their environments efficiently across organizational silos and technological boundaries. Modern network monitoring solutions help teams get over those hurdles by enabling consistent and unified reporting across multiple sites and separate operational groups, and by enabling the rapid generation of highly scalable reports.
Fueled by all the collected data with analytics overlaid, and presenting it via compelling and intuitive visualizations, next-gen monitoring systems enable the creation of customized and re-usable (time-saving) reports and visualizations. Examples include custom tables, as well as sankey, pie, bar, line, gauge and trending visualizations.
The best monitoring systems do more than just give users better ways to gather and analyze performance data. They also provide users with smarter, faster, and easier ways to shape their performance insights and share them across their organizations. By bringing insights to life in timely, actionable, and visually compelling reports, modern monitoring solutions let networking teams to take their own performance to the next level.
Step Five: Creating Problem solving Workflows
Network monitoring systems deliver the most value when they arm teams with the performance intelligence they need to locate, diagnose, and resolve network problems quickly – or better yet, prevent issues from becoming problems. That’s where customizable, reusable and shareable workflows make all the difference. Workflows are the detailed action plans that teams can follow to resolve problems as they crop up. Modern monitoring systems offer powerful and flexible tools for creating customized workflows.
NetOps and IT team members can build these to include simplified packages of complex, ‘drill-downs’ between reports that roll up into a comprehensive, troubleshooting workflow. They can use these customized resources to better manage their own areas and share them with their NetOps and IT team peers for increased operational effectiveness. They can also use workflows to improve communication and collaboration with their business-side colleagues.