Tool Consolidation Will Drive the Future of NPMD, Part 1

tool-consolidation-will-drive-the-future-of-npmdMost of today’s technology solutions follow a predictable pattern: general purpose tools give birth to increasingly specialized products, which later consolidate into broader multi-purpose solutions with superior capabilities. The reason for this is simple: specialization helps with particular tasks but generally leads to increased complexity and poor interoperability. Companies can quickly end up with a plethora of niche solutions that are designed for highly specialized tasks. Vendors eventually respond by incorporating the specialized functionality from a number of individual tools into a more comprehensive offering, but these offerings are often silos of technology that don’t talk to one another and leave operators and engineers with the task of manually connecting the dots.

At the moment the Network Performance Monitoring and Diagnostic (NPMD) market is right in the middle of this cycle and drowning in a swamp of antiquated and narrowly focused tools. And it’s becoming an increasingly frustrating and expensive problem. Companies have stitched these tools into their network operations fabrics, but they can’t address the demands of increasingly complex networks. Even when a single vendor offers a suite of related NPMD products, they are an inadequate collection of legacy tools that often share little beyond branding.

EMA recently highlighted some fascinating data on this topic in its 2018 Network Management Megatrends research, reporting that 49 percent of enterprises use 4 to 10 tools to monitor and troubleshoot their networks, while 27 percent use 11 or more solutions. Yes, that’s 11 (or more) different maintenance agreements; 11 (or more) different support plans; 11 (or more) aging platforms that are creating immense frustration. Fragmented network management tools were listed as the #4 challenge to network operations success, leading EMA to recommend that enterprises look to consolidate or better integrate toolsets.

Unfortunately, this is not an easy challenge to overcome especially in environments relying on virtualization, cloud, and SD-WAN. Organizations want complete visibility that requires insight into the data center, branch locations, campus environments, multiple cloud and SaaS providers and more. Organizations have typically looked for dedicated tools to help with each specific task. This means NetOps teams have to learn different workflows for different tasks, cycle between tools when investigating problems or reporting, and maintain and support all of the solutions deployed across the network.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Most companies get locked into legacy tools and task-specific solutions which slowly become inadequate to address the increasing complexity of their networks. They despise paying the expensive annual maintenance agreements, yet these tools have been deeply integrated into their operational workflows and are challenging to replace. The key to eliminating tool sprawl for enterprises is a purpose-built platform capable of adding new functionality as required by new users, applications, and compute environments. Easier said than done. But, the good news is we’re finally getting there in NPMD.

At LiveAction we’re fighting against tool sprawl by simplifying the way network operators, engineers and architects plan, deploy, and operate their evolving networks. By continually adding capabilities and features that understand and correlate the complexity of network data, we’re making network monitoring and analysis a place where confident knowledge and action can be found.

In fact, it was a major motivation in our recent acquisitions of Savvius and LivingObjects. LiveAction’s patented expertise in network visualization and high-velocity data management now covers the full range of data sources including Packet, Flow, SNMP and other data via APIs allowing us to deliver both broad visualizations for high-level monitoring and detailed packet analysis for problem isolation. Our strengths have traditionally been around WAN monitoring and QoS configuration, especially site-to-site application traffic that can be monitored with flow data.

Acquiring Savvius has given us tremendous diagnostic expertise when it comes to data centers and endpoints. The packet capture and analysis technology from Savvius offers an incredibly powerful troubleshooting solution. When investigating problems, packets don’t lie; they can allow users to investigate specific networking issues more deeply and with greater confidence than with flow data alone. This means that LiveAction customers can map their networks, monitor them with rich visualizations, and then, with the click of a button, start a packet capture and dive into analysis of the relevant flows and packets to solve problems fast – all in the same tool. It’s broad, deep and fast – a triple threat!

Many of our recent updates to LiveNX are designed to offer additional functionality that makes it a multi-purpose solution for large enterprises. For example, we’re adding new ways to customize dashboards, more sophisticated alerting including the ability to set thresholds, and other behind-the-scenes enhancements that allow LiveNX to scale when visualizing large, complex networks with hundreds or thousands of endpoints. These changes and additions position LiveNX as the perfect alternative to legacy NPMD products. And, it will only get better as we fully integrate Savvius’ packet-based diagnostic capabilities. All of this in a single, integrated, and comprehensive suite at a price that is significantly below the inflated costs of legacy systems.

As the NPMD market continues to evolve and vendors work to create more comprehensive and consolidated solutions, LiveAction is working hard to lead the charge. I’m optimistic that the market is moving away from tool sprawl. “Simplify the network” isn’t just a marketing slogan for this new generation of products – it’s our vision for the future of NPMD.

Brooks Borcherding
CEO at LiveAction

July 31, 2018