Managing Your Network

Network management has never been straighforward, but with the advent of big data and BYOD, things have become a lot more complicated, writes Piers Ford

Tags: Dell CorporationFrost & Sullivan ( optimisationSolarWinds ( IncorporatedUnited Arab Emirates
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Managing  Your Network Florian Malecki from Dell SonicWALL, says that a comprehensive view of an enterprise network is compelling for SMBs.
By  Piers Ford Published  June 19, 2012

Network management has never been straighforward, but with the advent of big data and BYOD, things have become a lot more complicated, writes Piers Ford

Network management used to be a relatively specific and straightforward process focused largely on keeping the network up and running. Today it is a far more sophisticated task, in which the issue of network performance looms large at every turn, thanks to the demands of the enterprise, with its reliance on data availability and integrity, and end-users who expect the same quality of service regardless of the device or application they want to access.

With data in all its variety constantly jostling for priority across the network, minimising any disruption to the delivery of data packets caused by delay, loss, throughput or retransmission problems is a priority for businesses across the Middle East.

A range of network performance and monitoring tools has emerged to meet growing demand for ways to streamline data delivery across infrastructures that, with the arrival of the cloud at the heart of enterprise computing, are more complex than ever.

“The world is moving on to a new generation of IT applications and working habits that dramatically affect networks,” says Lee Reynolds, managing director at specialist distributor Computerlinks, which supplies Exinda’s Unified Performance Management solutions for WAN optimisation.

“Trends such as Bring Your Own Device [BYOD], which sees an increasingly mobile workforce which expect to access the network wherever they are, and a growing number of cloud-based applications taking up more space on the network, are key developments network managers are having to deal with.”

Reynolds says that the IT department is effectively losing its ability to determine or anticipate network usage as it becomes more fractured, unpredictable and user-controlled.

“There is also a move towards VoIP, SaaS, video delivery and hosted cloud traffic all becoming regular features on the business network,” he states. “Therefore it is critical that IT departments find a next-generation WAN optimisation solution to provide the necessary visibility and control to guard against an overworked network.”

In a region where so many businesses have an infrastructure based on networks of remote offices, the adoption of new technologies and access devices has further complicated the issue by driving up bandwidth consumption, almost to breaking point, according to Reynolds.

“Crucially, the region has undergone massive modernisation in recent years, which has brought its own complications,” he says. “For example, the UAE population grew from just over three million in 2000 to a staggering 7.5 million in 2010. Some 90% of this growth has been the ‘working expat’ which has brought with it predictably heavy communications expectations which have impacted on network usage. Countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Iraq are already in the early stages of similar growth, which explains why WAN optimisation technology has seen major growth in the region in the past three or four years.”

Choosing Your Tools
Choosing the right tools to manage network performance in this rapidly evolving environment is a challenge, which depends on a variety of factors. While the network infrastructure itself has become the merged carrier for a multitude of applications and communications, monitoring performance does not necessarily require a big-ticket solution.

For example, vendors like SolarWinds are taking a more interactive approach to product development and providing a viable alternative to traditional network management platforms.

Its online ‘thwack’ community will allow customers to influence the type of network performance tools that are built, according to Sanjay Castelino, vice president of product marketing.

“In terms of the future of network performance tools, we think the future of IT management software is squarely grounded in the idea that companies [and the people in those companies] build complete products for other people, to help them solve problems and remove complexity from their life,” he states. “The business and technology benefits of using network management or monitoring software for IT departments is to find software that makes your life simpler. Networks are a lot more complicated and for those managing them, the demands are higher and the resources are lower. The solutions are better software and tools,” Castelino adds.

“The dynamics of enterprise networks are constantly evolving with servers and applications being virtualised, end points going mobile and cloud applications being introduced,” says Jonas Zelba, information and communication technologies analyst at Frost & Sullivan. “Many network optimising solutions have been created by introducing different products, which have contrasting operating systems, databases and even disparate user interfaces. These tools provide the application response time via packet seizure and review, but they do not scale across the entire network. With the continuous increase in data traffic, a steady growth in the demand for higher bandwidth and reduced overall expenditure, managing the enterprise network has altogether become an exceedingly daunting task for the network manager.”

According to Zelba, network professionals need to consider a number of options when it comes to choosing the most appropriate Network Performance Management (NPM) solution.

Fine Tuning
If scalability is important, for example, the NPM must be able to keep up with the demands of large amounts of data collection and storage, which can create major challenges for status report generation. On the plus side, several systems can work together, increasing the power of a single reporter.

If ease of installation is important, businesses might want to consider an appliance-based solution rather than a product hosted by multiple servers. These products have a built-in capacity to perform data collection along with monitoring and reporting network elements are simpler to operate, less expensive and easier to maintain.

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