Today’s enterprise networks have evolved into highly complex systems dependent on the reliable performance of thousands of interconnected applications and devices. In the event any one of those components degrades or fails, the performance of the business itself is in jeopardy.
Bandwidth-hungry applications such as VOIP and IPTV, real-time online communication and collaboration tools, cloud computing, and social networking are now common features of the business environment and are placing immense pressure on the corporate network. Meanwhile, increasing network complexity has produced many more potential points of degradation and failure, from a bulldozer slicing a cable in the countryside to a misconfigured firewall device clamping down on business critical network traffic through the data centre.
But whilst IT managers may be aware of the risks associated with network degradation or downtime, the shocking truth is they often rely on legacy network performance management tools which cannot scale to handle their entire networks, are unable to monitor real-time degradation events or are simply too expensive to deploy over more than a small subset of their networks.
My customers tell me there are two main reasons why they fail to update their network performance monitoring tools; either the IT team doesn’t have the resources to oversee an upgrade project (let alone manage the reports the tools will generate), or they have no budget. Let’s address each objection in turn.
Lack of bandwidth
With many IT departments overworked and understaffed, it’s easy to understand the concern that upgrading network management software will take up management time they simply don’t have. As networks have become more complicated, many IT managers have found managing applications across networks has fragmented into a wide array of monitoring product and technology choices, and disparate processes.
As a result, the reports they generate are becoming increasingly difficult to decipher and interpret. One of our customers recently spent eight weeks trying to create a specific report using a legacy network performance management application. After two months of frantic hair-pulling, he gave up and finally resorted to creating a report himself by hacking their networking monitoring software’s backend Oracle database and pulling the detail into an Excel spreadsheet – a messy work-around which took another two weeks and wasn’t reusable.
However, more complex networks don’t have to translate into more complex reporting. Performance management systems have come leaps and bounds in recent years and tools are now available which have not only evolved technologically but are much more intuitive and easy to use. So, the specific report required in the above customer example can now be created instantly and automated using a new advanced performance management system.
The latest technology can scale from the smallest to the very largest networks and can be easily extended to monitor new device types as they emerge on the market. Ubiquitous modern infrastructure components, such as new routers, switches, access points and load balancers are automatically discovered as soon as they are added to the networks. With this level of visibility into the entire network, the IT department must be able to view raw historic network performance, understand what is happening in real time and make projections with detailed reports which can be generated in seconds rather than hours.
Lack of budget
So what about the cost argument? In the current economic climate, companies are understandably reluctant to invest in anything other than the most business-critical applications. But look at it this way, if a business doesn’t have visibility into the profiles of applications which are consuming bandwidth in their environment, how do they assure their availability, and guarantee their performance over the network?
Saving money by not updating network monitoring software is a false economy. The only alternative for those organisations with poor visibility into their infrastructure is to blindly throw people, time and resources at an IT issue in the hope it will go away. Trying to troubleshoot a performance problem without the right tools steals productivity from IT and business users alike.
The network is now the foundation of any IT infrastructure. It doesn’t matter how good your applications are, whether you virtualise your data centre, or you have the most powerful servers in the world running your data centre. If those applications or their individual components can’t communicate with each other or their servers cannot communicate with each other or with backend databases, the application simply won’t work – no matter how powerful or expensive it might be. In a nutshell, if the network is not running effectively all this great technology is simply a wasted investment.
Years ago network monitoring was a massive investment which would often take years before any return was realised by which time the technology had moved on. Today it’s a different story; network performance management systems can be significantly less expensive and can deliver demonstrable value almost immediately. Five years ago network performance might have been seen as an IT department issue but today, clients also need open access to network performance data to monitor service level agreements and provide better customer service.
Comprehensive network performance management is no longer a luxury but a business necessity. Modern technology is not only capable of unlimited scalability, managing every single network element – it is also affordable and easy to use, even for users who aren’t network management specialists. When faced with the facts, the arguments that network performance management is too costly or time consuming just don’t wash any longer.