Providing Network Situational Awareness through Visualization

The military talks a lot about situational awareness and how it’s a critical element in planning and executing missions. There are also certain principles, which have been defined by Endsley and other researchers. But, if you take the concept and apply it to network situational awareness, what does that look like?

Central to the visualization should be a view of the network based on the mental model of a network engineer. There are many different ways to represent this, but one critical representation is the topology. It’s a natural extension of how the network engineers think, understand and troubleshoot their system.

That being said, if you map all the metrics and data from the network to a topology to give a real-time and historical view, what does that look like? Well, it looks like LiveAction. It provides a view across the network over space and time with an indication of the state and status. Many years of research resulted in four patents on how this type of visualization can be done for the network.

type of visualization

The ability to interact with the topology provides feedback, which completes the cycle of sense, reinforcing the engineers’ mental model of what’s truly happening in the network.

For example, the ability to drill into the device view and watch it in real time as traffic goes through it really maps to how an engineer thinks. At the same time, an engineer can validate what he/she imagined with what is actually going on in reality.

especially with SDWAN and SDN in general

This becomes more important as the networks become more complex and scale to a large number of sites. And, as networks become more dynamic and agile, especially with SDWAN and SDN in general, the network visualization becomes harder. But, so does the job of the network engineer to manage it. Thus, LiveAction will evolve with the technologies that shape the network and will be able to answer the questions that engineers require from the network, in an intuitive and easily understood manner.

 

August. 8, 2016

Author: John K. Smith, CTO

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