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To evaluate network management, what criteria is there?

What are the criteria for evaluating how efficient your network management is? Find out in this expert response with Lindi Horton.

I would like to know what the criteria is for evaluating a network in terms of management.

In today's diverse networking infrastructure, network management has evolved into a complex series of functions delicately balanced with one another. In general these functions follow the traditional FCAPS model, a network management model developed by ISO. The FCAPS model composed of five major areas of functionality for network management, fault, configuration, accounting, performance, and security. While this framework is a great model, another best practices approach for service delivery was designed to align itself with current IT organizational structures and expand upon the FCAPS model.

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library, or ITIL, was designed to provide a better framework to deliver high-quality, consistent application delivery over a network infrastructure. Many organizations are adopting the ITIL framework within their environments to provide quality assurances toward providing better network management practices. These practices include a framework for application, service, and security management. For each area, I have included a general description and the questions it addresses for network management teams:

Service support: This is typically a network operations center (NOC) in most organizations. The service support discipline is focused on ensuring that the end users have access to the applications that they require. This area focuses on aspects of troubleshooting, help desk, and supporting new applications over the network. Underlying disciplines for service support include problem management, configuration management, and change management. Problem management would track the number of incidents and facilitate troubleshooting of faults or performance problems that occur in the environment. To troubleshoot a network environment, a good understanding of what devices are on the network and their configuration is handled by the configuration management (often referred to as configuration management database (CMDB)). Change management also involves both aspects of problem management and configuration management as the change board would approve planned changes for the infrastructure, update the CMDB, and record any problems encountered during the change. Efficient service support would include the ability to create a process for troubleshooting and escalation to higher level engineers, PC and client PC installations, and access to other aspects of the organization that are responsible for implementation and design of the network among other duties.

Service delivery: For many organizations, the key management functions of a service are delivered in this area. Service delivery consists of ensuring that as applications are flowing across the network, they are being delivered consistently. This discipline includes capacity management and application modeling. Service level objectives and agreements are the key metrics used to distinguish how well an application is being delivered to end users.

Security management: Security has been a prevalent network management focus for several years with its key characteristics in ensuring that external threats are mitigated with firewalls and access prevention. Security management also includes proper configuration management of rights and permissions of users to ensure that unauthorized access is not granted to end users. Security management is an area of focus to ensure that unauthorized or unintended access of sensitive application data is not obtained.

Infrastructure management: In larger organizations, the teams that design and troubleshoot the systems are separate entities than the team that installs the equipment. This is why accurate configuration management is essential to the success of IT organizations. Infrastructure management is responsible for the installation and physical configuration of all network devices in the organization. When changes are approved by the change teams, infrastructure teams are the army that enforces these changes and does all of the heavy lifting based on the designs by other architects and engineers.

Application management: Application management is designed with the sole purpose of ensuring that an application has the right configuration and design to be implemented in the environment. This discipline can cover many various aspects of network management, from number of application dependencies to delay timers for satellite links. Application management is designed to ensure that the application, end-to-end, is fully enabled to provide the service and delivery to the end users.

Software asset management: Software asset management is often considered a vital aspect of managing an organization. Software licenses and products are expensive commodities. Software asset management is designed to be partially configuration management as it provides essential information about the software installed on each device, its revision or platform level, and how many instances are required. Accounting for proper licensing and software maintenance is a big business with many larger IT organizations.

It's also important to note that even in smaller IT operations, these key functions are essential to proper IT management initiatives. Many of these functions can be collapsed together like help desk and service delivery to provide the same services as larger organizations.

This was last published in July 2007

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