A Comprehensive Introduction to Network Optimization

 

What is network optimization?

Network optimization comprises the technologies, tools, and techniques that help maintain, improve, or maximize performance across all network domains. These elements are used to monitor, manage, and optimize performance metrics to help ensure the highest levels of service for users throughout the network.

 

Why is optimization important?

Network optimization is important because our interconnected real-time world is completely dependent on the reliable, secure, available, 24/7 transfer of data. And every year, there are more and more demands being placed on networks. Our data-driven world is undeniable. Every aspect of our digital lives rely on how efficiently the network operates, and it’s the reason why network optimization is critical.

 

What are the core benefits of optimization?

There are four core benefits to optimization:

  1. Optimization enables the free flow of data through the optimal usage of network system resources.
  2. Optimization tracks performance metrics, providing real-time reporting to help network managers proactively manage the network.
  3. Optimization provides analytics and predictive modeling so that network managers can determine the impact any changes to the architecture will have on the network before they are implemented.
  4. All these benefits add up to the most important benefit: driving greater network performance.

 

What are the top network optimization metrics?

The top business objectives driving optimization include technologies such as SD-WAN, WiFi, big data, collaboration, and multi-cloud cloud, mobile, and edge computing.

Reference: Network Optimization Central to Network Enhancement

Business leaders are demanding these technologies be implemented and are becoming more heavily reliant on them for growth and operational efficiency. Huge volumes of data are being generated as a result of these technologies, thereby consuming large network bandwidths and causing greater strain the network as a whole.

At the same time, business leaders expect these technologies to work. Without exception. Period.

Top trends driving optimization:

Legacy systems are being leveraged to become more agile

Though network technologies continue to evolve, they still need to play nicely with existing systems. It’s simply not economically feasible to rip’n’replace. In our recent survey of NetOps professionals, they said that transforming networks away from legacy architectures to become more agile (and less costly) is their biggest priority for 2019.

Too much complexity is straining NetOps people and resources

One of the biggest challenges that NetOps faces are lack of time. They are too busy troubleshooting issues across the network, usually made up of disparate legacy architectures and multiple monitoring tools, to focus on larger strategic issues. Network optimization offers the promise of a consolidated architecture, improved overall network performance, and a single end-to-end view for NetOps.

Distributed networks are causing greater security and risk

There are more devices, IoT devices, applications, cloud-based networks, virtual networks, software-defined networks (SDNs) than ever before. And the more that are introduced to the network, the more chances there are for security breaches. Within an optimized network, NetOps have the ability to help minimize vulnerabilities to protect sensitive data from infiltration and attack.

 

What are the common optimization metrics?

The top network optimization metrics to quantity specific aspects of the network identify certain attributes that reflect the network’s health, such as latency and packet loss, jitter, congestion, and bandwidth – all of which are crucial to network performance, end-user experience, and end-user productivity.

Top network optimization metrics are:

Network Availability

This is among the biggest concerns of any network manager responsible for business-critical or mission-critical network environments. Network availability is the percentage of time that the network is functioning over a specific period. All network resources are monitored for availability, including network devices, interfaces, WANs, SD-WANs, services, processes, applications, and websites, among others. The optimal network availability metric is often expressed as “nine nines”: 99.9999999%, which translates into 31.56 milliseconds of downtime per year.

Network Utilization

This is a measure of the amount of traffic on the network, showing whether a network is busy, stable, or idle. It is calculated as a ratio based on current traffic to the peak traffic the network can handle and is specified as a percentage. Spikes in network usage can affect the performance of the network infrastructure on every layer, and monitoring is required to track usage increases. By measuring inbound and outbound patterns of bandwidth usage, network managers can see at a glance how much and where the network is being utilized, enabling them to make informed decisions about upgrades and maintenance.

Network Latency

“Latency” is a synonym for “delay”. Network latency is the measurement of delays that occur in data communication, either in a one-way or round trip of a packet of data. An indicator of network speed, usually measured in milliseconds, latency has a big effect on user experience (think VoIP calls or video streaming in particular). Networks that experience small delays are a low-latency networks. Those with long delays are high-latency networks.

Network Jitter

This occurs when a stream of data is not constant, resulting in some packets of data taking longer than others to be delivered. Jitter is a sign of an overloaded router due to network congestion, and usually results in poor online video or voice quality.

Network Service Delivery and Service Assurance

Service delivery monitoring is the technology that enables the visualization, detection, alerting and reporting on the status of an end-to-end IT service. It is similar to service assurance, which is a framework of technology and processes to ensure that IT services offered over the enterprise network meet the agreed-to service quality level (SLA) for optimal user experience. Service delivery monitoring and service assurance occur through the optimization of the application performance across a hybrid network infrastructure.

 

What is a typical network optimization industry uses cases?

Typical network optimization uses cases span industries. Whatever the industry – real estate, manufacturing, retail, professional services, oil & gas, or healthcare – the issues that drive the decision to pursue a network optimization initiative are universal. The goals: availability, flexibility, and scalability of enterprise networks – all with a view to provide reliable, immediate, secure delivery of and access to enterprise data, applications and services. The benefits: streamlined network management, increased security, more effective data compliance and control, and overall cost savings in hardware, software and NetOps management.

Typical Optimization Initiatives

Typical optimization initiatives involve individual workstations and devices right up to the servers, with everything in between. The ideal way to do this is by leveraging technologies, that is, optimizing existing systems without acquiring additional hardware or software. Among the actions NetOps takes to optimize network performance are:

  • traffic shaping
  • redundant data elimination
  • data caching
  • data compression
  • streamlining of data protocols
  • buffer tuning
  • quality of service (QoS) implementation
  • enhanced application delivery

 

Why is optimization important to NetOps and network engineers?

Network technology is anything but static. It is constantly changing because the demands upon it are changing as well. Call it what you will – business transformation, digital transformation, network transformation – as the enterprise relies even more heavily on the network, it’s put a lot more pressure on NetOps and network engineers.

This is why network optimization is central to the success of all network initiatives across all network domains. It is the solution to a huge problem – that network management teams who rely on legacy monitoring tools are only getting a partial picture of the network. And without end-to-end visibility, they are not as effective as they could be.

Advanced network monitoring and management tools help mitigate these visibility issues and help ensure successful network transformation implementations.

The pressure is on NetOps to drive business performance through the network

With enterprises becoming increasingly reliant on their networks for growth and operational efficiency, the strategic IT decisions about the network have become, in effect, strategic business decisions.

The rallying cry of “Do more with less!” in today’s business environment is very familiar to NetOps. They’re always looking for ways to increase network flexibility and agility while reducing costs. In our recent survey, 34% of NetOps professionals stated that improving network agility is their highest priority for 2019. And they ranked lowering service provider costs, Capex budgets, and Opex budgets as their next-most important goals for 2019.

 

Improve Network Agility

34% of network professionals noted this as a priority or high priority

Network transformation is a reality that all NetOps teams must face

To achieve network agility and reduce costs, NetOps is moving from legacy architectures to cloud-oriented networks. This way, they can offload CapEx and OpEx costs to providers that can host, scale, and deploy applications and services only when needed. As well, they’re using SD-WAN to reduce overall WAN costs while speeding up provisioning and deployment for branch offices.

These kinds of virtualized environments are transformational, but they are still occurring in environments with disparate legacy networks that each have their own toolsets for monitoring and management. These siloed systems provide limited visibility and poor interoperability outside of their own infrastructures, leaving NetOps with significant blind spots.

NetOps teams are stretched in every direction

Time is not on NetOps side. In our survey, we found up to 42% of NetOps professionals have difficulties troubleshooting issues across the whole network as a result of disparate legacy architectures.

Network professionals have challenging network performance issues spanning several network domains (38%) and hampered by poor performance visibility across multiple network fabrics (35%). With these blind spots NetOps is unable to improve network performance, making it difficult to deliver on network transformation successfully.


NetOps challenges – performance blind spots

42% have difficulty troubleshooting performance issues across the entire network

35% have poor visibility into performance across the entire network

35% have poor end-to-end performance monitoring

36% cannot proactively identify network performance issues

 

The network is the business – and NetOps needs to ensure it’s performing

Poor network performance means poor business performance. It’s a direct correlation that NetOps professionals understand, and are acting on. Our survey found that 45% are looking for ways to improve application performance across the entire network; almost 40% seek to improve remote site network performance; and 37% respectively seek to improve wifi/wireless performance.


45%

Highest Priority Goal: Improve application performance across the entire network

 

Resolving network performance issues starts by gaining visibility and insight into what and where issues are occurring. Our survey found that the need to eliminate network performance blind spots through end-to-end network visibility is one of the key network operations initiatives for 2019. In fact, 39% of NetOps pros are addressing this need by consolidating legacy network monitoring tools. At the same time, 37% seek better network performance management solutions, while another 34% seek to automate or upgrade network configuration change management tools.


37%

The number of enterprise NetOps teams seeking to upgrade their network performance management solution

Reference Network Survey Findings:

 

What network optimization software tools are available?

Flow visualization and analytics

These network performance monitoring and diagnostics tools provide complete network administration, enabling NetOps to locate and troubleshoot problems, perform real-time analytics of end-to-end network traffic, and control of routers and switches.

Through visualization of traffic across the entire network down to a single flow – from the system level to the device level to the interface level — NetOps has the ability to perform proactive management and maintenance with full historical reporting for reference.

Packet visualization and analytics

These appliances extend network monitoring and visibility for troubleshooting of application-level issues at remote sites, branch offices, WAN links, and data centers. Through packet capture, NetOps can do real-time and post-event analytics, identifying network performance issues using visualizations. As a result, they can keep business-critical services like VoIP up and running, perform analyses of e-commerce transactions, keep alerted to security attacks, and identify issues concerning latency, communications quality and capacity.

SD-WAN visualization and reporting

These tools provide complete visibility of application performance across an SD-WAN topology, enabling NetOps to monitor devices and service-level performance across multiple domains. They simplify policy verification, correlate multiple data sets from the edge routers, isolate specific applications, and enable NetOps to drill down into specific parameters and policies to determine SLA performance. With virtual imagery of tunnels, VPNs, VRFs, interfaces, and more, NetOps can perform deep analysis to identify errors, misconfigurations and mistakes, all in one view.

WiFi visualization and analytics

WiFi networks are among the most challenging to monitor. These tools perform a wireless site survey to monitor RF levels by location, check WiFi signal strength, perform connectivity analytics (e.g. RADIUS, DHCP, ARP and DNS), perform security analytics including identification of unauthorized access points, and monitor security settings (e.g. open, WEP, WPA, WPA2). A visualization of the network enables NetOps to monitor, manage, and troubleshoot wireless networks across locations, SSIDs, VLANs and devices.

Reference: Network Monitoring Tools 

 

How best to achieve network optimization?

LiveAction provides end-to-end performance and network visibility

Network performance blind spots caused by a hodge-podge of legacy network monitoring tools can be overcome by the use of modern network performance monitoring and management solutions similar to LiveAction, the industry’s leader for enterprise companies.

NetOps sees the consolidation of network monitoring tools as their highest priority, along with upgrading network performance management solutions and automating or upgrading network configuration change management. LiveAction is the advanced network performance monitoring and management solution that handles all these priorities.

LiveAction enables network transformation

Leveraging LiveAction’s advanced network performance monitoring and management platform makes network transformation projects easier and faster to plan, deploy and operationalize. Whether it’s SD-WAN, advanced switches, multi-cloud, wireless or remote site optimization,

LiveAction Optimizes Network Performance across Your Entire Network

No matter what your existing network infrastructure looks like or where you’re trying to migrate, LiveAction improves monitoring across the entire network, proactively identifies network issues, and improves performance from the core (SD-WAN, WAN) to remotes sites and branches, to the cloud. The outcome: improved application performance across the entire network with reduced costs.

LiveAction Helps Achieve Your Business Goals

LiveAction fosters network agility and cost reduction by providing network operations professionals with the breadth and depth of network visibility and performance management optimization tools, all in a single-pane-of-glass platform. With LiveAction, strategic network transformation projects become easier to plan, deploy and operationalize as blind spots are eliminated, and proactive network monitoring capabilities expedite the path to greater optimization as well as cost reduction.

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