Six Capabilities Network Management Teams Should Prioritize When Picking an NPMD Solution

Picking NPMD SolutionWhen I talk with those responsible for their organization’s network performance, I keep hearing the same things: big shifts are afoot, what with major trends like cloud, virtualization and software-defined networking; they have too many tools to learn and manage; and never has the network been more critical and downtime more painful.

In my experience, network teams are able to meet the changing demands they face only if they are being supported by the right solutions. I hesitate to call them tools because they are broader than that. With the right solutions, you spend less time on all the inevitable inefficiencies, and more time using what you’ve learned so painfully over the years to focus on what really matters. So what are the most important capabilities to look for in an NPMD solution? Here are six:

1. Situational awareness. This term may have originated with improving cockpit effectiveness in an aircraft but it certainly applies to networking. You need situational awareness in large part to know what NOT to pay attention to. Whatever is left must contain the problem. The driving technology behind situational awareness is advanced visualization. The best solutions go far beyond quickly spitting out data in basic charts and graphs, instead presenting the deluge of comprehensive data from complex, hybrid networks in a format that maps to the mental model of today’s network engineer.

2. Capacity planning. It used to be adequate to do capacity planning on a per-WAN link basis, but that simply doesn’t cut it today. No, you need to assess available bandwidth, analyze bandwidth usage across applications, and prioritize bandwidth allocation, especially if you’re part of a NetOps team responsible for dealing with high-priority application performance and QoS management across the entire organization.

3. Multiple data sources. Device data – like NetFlow and SNMP – is critical for situational awareness and topology mapping, but what about the parts of the network where flow isn’t available? That’s where wire data – the ability to generate metadata directly from the traffic – comes in. But because wire data doesn’t require saving packets, a third data source, packet data, is needed if you want to get to the root cause of certain problems.

Here’s where the “too many tools problem” can rear its head. A single unified solution across all the data sources will smooth out the workflow and keep you from having to learn “YANMS” (Yet Another Network Management Solution).

4. Software Defined Networks. All of our mobile phones have become software-defined communications devices, and that shift is inevitable in networking as well. “Physical plumbing” matters, but virtual plumbing matters more. Without a clean, multi-vendor overlay/underlay view, it is possible to see a problem without understanding which of many physical explanations is the right one.

5. Interoperability. Clearly, it is a good thing to have an integrated solution for network performance monitoring and diagnostics, but even a unified NPMD solution doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Whether it be SD-WAN controllers, network ticketing solutions, or Cisco’s SD-Access, you need a high level of interoperability.

6. Cloud. Remember when private clouds were the future? Now we’re talking about what will go into AWS or Azure and when. Sure, NetOps teams don’t own cloud computing infrastructure directly, but since when did that stop someone with slow application performance from blaming the network? You’re going to want to be able to manage, troubleshoot and optimize the cloud seamlessly along with traditional, owned network resources.

I think these six capabilities are important no matter which vendor you look to for your NPMD solution. At LiveAction, we’ve certainly kept them in mind as we build on the best visualization engine in networking. In fact, that awareness caused us to purchase the leading packet capture and forensics company Savvius earlier this year. Our teams are working closely together to deliver our vision of a single solution that simplifies network management by bringing together device data, wire data, and packet capture.

We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished already. And even more is on its way! Can we show you? Sign up for a demo of LiveNX and see what you think.