How to Ensure Network Performance Amid the IT Resource Squeeze

By John Smith, Executive Vice President and CTO at LiveAction

In today’s complex IT landscape, Network Operations (NetOps) teams have a difficult job. A recent survey found that network professionals are up against some immense challenges – with 42% spending so much time troubleshooting the network that they’re unable to focus on major digital transformation projects and strategic business initiatives that can improve the bottom line. While hot technologies like software-defined networking, network functions virtualization and edge computing offer exciting business benefits, they’re also introducing a level of IT complexity that makes it difficult for most of today’s network performance monitoring and diagnostic (NPMD) tools to identify and address major IT issues.

At the same time, many highly-specialized tools have emerged to help address specific networking challenges and tasks in today’s multi-vendor, multi-cloud, multi-fabric world. Unfortunately, the growing field of niche tools often results in tool sprawl. In fact, more than half of NetOps teams rely on between four and 10 tools. This means most companies have up to 10 different platforms to manage, each requiring its own training, workflow, maintenance agreement and support plan.  In other words, it’s getting extremely expensive and inefficient for network teams to continue leveraging specialized network management tools to build, maintain and grow their critical IT infrastructure.

And on top of all this, the industry is also facing a major skill shortage. Analyst firm IDC predicts that due to a scarcity of IT skills, 90% of organizations will have adjusted project plans, delayed product releases, and incurred costs or lost revenue totaling $390 billion annually by 2020.

As overloaded and understaffed NetOps teams struggle with these obstacles, many are wondering how they can answer the call to do more with less. Let’s explore a few critical capabilities unified NPMD solutions can provide to help ensure network performance in spite of the IT resource squeeze: 

Interoperability

The issue of tool sprawl amplifies the many network performance and troubleshooting challenges overburdened NetOps teams already experience. Although adopting specialized network management tools can help with particular tasks, it generally carries with it the burden of increased workflow complexity and poor interoperability. For example, some NPMD platforms allow users to capture packet data for troubleshooting, but they don’t offer analytical capabilities. So, companies compensate by using another tool like Wireshark to analyze the packet data and identify the root cause of the issue. But the lack of integration with their NPMD tool makes the analysis more time-consuming than it needs to be and requires added manual steps throughout the workflow. That’s why unified NPMD tools that offer a high level of interoperability are so critical for NetOps teams today. They streamline network management processes and workflows, which removes the need for additional specialized skillsets and saves administrators time and effort so they can be more productive and focus on network initiatives that matter most.

End-to-end Visibility with Multiple Data Sources

Often times, specialized NPMD tools are designed to consume and analyze limited network data types. Network data inputs such as flow, packet, and SNMP data can be very helpful when troubleshooting network issues, but without a solution capable of handling a wide breadth of data types, you’re not getting the entire picture. In fact, some highly specialized tools can’t even process important types of network data. For example, there are some tools out there that are unable to monitor IPv6 traffic or quality-of-service metrics for voice traffic, even though those may make up a large percentage of traffic on their network. Unified NPMD solution that access multiple critical data sources in one holistic platform remove the need to use tons of costly, complex tools, and provides the in-depth visibility you need into virtual networks and fabrics across the entire network. Not only does managing all critical data sources through one central platform make it easier to quickly resolve issues and ensure network performance, but it helps NetOps teams make better use of their limited time and resources.

Did you know that 38% of network professionals report that they’re not able to proactively identify network performance issues? That’s right – instead of identifying potential issues and stopping them before they impact the business, many network professionals are forced to wait for issues to occur and then scrambling to resolve them. They’re constantly reacting – so focused on troubleshooting performance issues across highly complex, multi-fabric networks with solutions that don’t provide visibility into every aspect of the broader IT environment that it’s nearly impossible to identify issues and potential anomalies before they impact the business.

As digital transformation initiatives continue to add complexity to today’s networks, and valuable IT skills become increasingly scarce, NetOps teams need to be armed with a unified NPMD solution that can even the odds. With the level of interoperability and granular network insight today’s top NPMD technologies can provide, NetOps teams can overcome the IT resource squeeze. This allows them to proactively prevent network issues from becoming costly business issues, while enabling them to focus on IT projects that support high-priority business objectives.

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