Pressure gauge

With high-profile network outages hitting the news more regularly, IT pros are paying close attention to advancements in network monitoring technologies.

Tags: Aruba NetworksBrocade (www.brocade.com)ManageEngineRiverbed Technology Incorporated
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Pressure gauge Enaya: It is much more difficult to track the factors affecting wireless network performance.
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By  Tom Paye Published  March 18, 2014

Other vendors, meanwhile, are working to provide unified solutions that monitor all aspects of a network. Brocade’s Ismair, for example, points towards the Brocade Network Advisor, which he describes as the industry’s first unified network management solution for data, storage, application and converged networks. Support is offered for everything from fibre channel SANs and fibre channel over Ethernet (FCoE) networks to IP switching and wireless, he claims.

“It provides end-to-end network visibility across these different network types in a single application. It supports comprehensive lifecycle management capabilities across these different networks via a seamless and unified end-user experience,” he says.

Which new capabilities matter?
As ever, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as it entirely depends on what the business needs are. For example, a large e-commerce website, with a vast array of various network functions, may very well need Brocade’s all-you-can-eat monitoring bundle. But a small manufacturer, on the other hand, is unlikely to need such a robust solution.

There are, however, new capabilities that most IT departments might at least be interested in, particularly as they find their fields of responsibility increasing at a faster rate than their budgets. According to ManageEngine’s Anand, automation of troubleshooting is becoming an increasingly popular demand among customers. After all, if a time-consuming process can be automated, it frees up staff for other tasks.

“Automation is necessary for doing more with less and eliminating repeated tasks. Most of the network issues have a common set of troubleshooting activities. For example, whenever the network is slow, the admins will be doing a set of actions such as verifying the CPU and memory of the router or switch, verify whether any configuration is modified, and bandwidth utilisation,” he explains.

“These steps can be automated so that whenever there is an issue in the network, the network monitoring solution can automatically perform these actions immediately and provide hands-on information.”

Naturally, policies need to be defined with any automated product, but the experts believe that it is worth putting the effort in. ManageEngine claims that its solutions provide good functionality out of the box, though naturally users can fine tune the products to provide better insight into the network, as is the case with any modern network monitoring technology. Meanwhile, Brocade’s Ismair believes wholeheartedly in investing the time into setting up automated monitoring processes by creating event triggers, particularly if a business is looking for early warnings against failures.

“Event triggering is an essential element in the automation. Triggers can be activated in scenarios such as too many users connected to a single access point, failure of a switch, sudden spikes in bandwidth consumption, et cetera. The triggers provide an early warning against failures and help initiate counteractive measures,” he says.

Future-proofing

Perhaps the biggest argument for indulging in the newer network performance monitoring technologies, however, can be found in the quest to create a future-proof network. According to Riverbed’s El-Khayat, a robust network monitoring solution is essential if organisations want to experiment with new trends such as software-defined networking (SDN) or the software-defined data centre (SDDC).

“For example, if you want to do better capacity planning, if you want to do a what-if analysis, or if you want to do even better on end-user experience — all of these are features beyond the traditional network performance monitoring tools, and it is the foundation for adoption of the new trends and the future trends around cloud and virtualisation,” he says.

“If you look at those three key trends — SDN, SDDC and cloud — it’s key to have solutions like this. The purpose of the monitoring tools and application performance monitoring tools is to give you end-to-end visibility.”

Other vendors agree that the latest generation of networking monitoring technologies will help ease the transition to the likes of SDN and cloud. However, with such trends still taking baby steps in the Middle East, it may be a while before network managers are convinced.

What is quite clear, however, is that the base requirements must be covered by a network monitoring solution. As any number of high-profile network outages will illustrate, businesses can rarely afford to deal with the consequences of unplanned downtime. And a good network performance monitoring solution should, at the very least, help to mitigate the risk.

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