By Jay Botelho, Director of Engineering at LiveAction
Today’s disruptive technologies like SD-WAN and edge computing offer attractive opportunities like major cost savings and increased productivity for businesses. However, pursuing these network transformation initiatives can expose a variety of visibility challenges most IT teams are facing today. One recent study found that 42% of network operations (NetOps) professionals are spending too much time network troubleshooting, and revealed the network domains in which they encounter the most issues: wireless networks, cloud/multi-cloud, branch/remote sites, endpoints, data centers and WAN/SD-WAN.
The study also found 35% of NetOps reported network visibility and performance monitoring as major challenges. A lack of visibility into the entire network creates treacherous blind spots for NetOps teams that force them to spend their time on troubleshooting rather than focusing on strategic network transformation initiatives. This can put network uptime, performance and end-user experience in jeopardy. This can also cause a major hit to the bottom line, as the average cost of network downtime is approximately $5,600 per minute, according to Gartner.
Here’s an overview of the five most common blind spots hindering network transformation initiatives today, and why:
Wireless Networks – Wireless networks are difficult to manage because they have a fixed capacity. Each access point has a limited number of users that it can accommodate at a minimum data rate. With more and more users piling on the network, the design degrades to where users are unable to access the minimum data rate that the network is designed to deliver. Thus, without proper visibility, NetOps teams can’t see the data rates users are connecting at, or if the network is being oversubscribed.
Cloud / Multi-cloud –Cloud visibility can be very difficult to achieve because IT teams can’t actually install software to monitor hosted applications, such as Salesforce or Microsoft, on the servers running the services. These applications can be blind spots for NetOps teams because they are unable to tell if or when issues arise. As a result, administrators are reacting problems that have already begun to impact the business.
Endpoints – Endpoints are common blind spots for NetOps teams because they’re extremely difficult to monitor given the scale, especially for enterprises with large numbers of remote offices or branch locations. Traditional monitoring solutions that are based on appliances are often too expensive to put a solution in place for each individual endpoint. As a result, maintaining such a large-scale solution requires modern network monitoring systems that can be deployed at scale. As enterprises employ more SasS and cloud-based systems, endpoints make direct connections to web services and bypass the usual corporate network visibility solutions, making visibility a must-have at each remote location.
Data Centers –Most enterprises still rely on data centers for their IT operations, and this isn’t likely to change anytime soon. And with the rise of edge computing, IoT, and software-defined networking, data center architectures are more complex than ever, with far more connected devices. Thus, it’s more important than ever to review your data center visibility solutions to ensure they’re capable of monitoring these new technologies.
WAN/SD-WANs –SD-WANs create virtual networks using a number of tunnels, which significantly restricts IT’s visibility into the deployment. SD-WANs also have increased telemetry data that most older monitoring tools are not equipped to handle. Thus, many teams using legacy monitoring tools can’t achieve the required visibility to manage and optimize SD-WANs. While various SD-WAN vendor tools offer some level of visibility, they don’t hook into an enterprise’s day-to-day operations or provide adequate visibility. This often leaves SD-WAN deployments as the least visible part of the network, making it a major blind spot for NetOps.
Removing Network Blind Spots
Visibility into all domains of the network is imperative for business operations. Without it, NetOps teams are faced with frustrated users, decreased productivity, time-consuming troubleshooting, and network downtime. Fortunately, there are solutions available that provide the required level of visibility into all domains of the network.
Today, there are unified network performance monitoring and diagnostic (NPMD) solutions that can help NetOps teams gain visibility into virtually every aspect of their complex network. These solutions provide end-to-end visibility and insight into baseline performance, which helps in the planning process for new network transformation initiatives by allowing IT to more accurately determine which policies need to be developed. Comprehensive visibility through these NPMD solutions also helps in the deployment phase to ensure and verify that the policies are performing as expected. From there, NetOps can continuously monitor and manage the entire network, even at common network blind spots when using these solutions. This ultimately allows IT professionals to focus less on tedious troubleshooting and more on the valuable network transformation initiatives that contribute to broader business goals.