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Which OSI layers are network managers responsible for?

Learn which layers of the OSI model network managers should be responsible for. Our expert, Lindi Horton, explains where to focus your manual operations, especially regarding automated operation tasks.

We know that some technology and software can perform automated network operation tasks, for example, DHCP in the Network layer and error coding ( FEC) in the Link layer. I'm sure there are many more examples.

Based on the complexity of tasks, my question, is which OSI layers, i.e., Physical, Link, Network, Transport or Application (see the OSI Reference Model illustrated for more information) are network managers more inclined to focus their manual operations? Or are we as NMs concerned with all layers equally?

I'm only after a general idea of which layers NMs tend to be involved in, such as VLANs in a MAC address configuration. I'm not looking for detail on each individual OSI layer.

The answer to this question is about as varied as the grains of sand on the beach. However, that being said, there are a lot of core competencies of a network management toolset.

To answer your question succinctly, most network management tasks focus on the network and to a smaller degree the Link and Physical layers. The aim of most network management tasks is to consistently apply a single policy or configuration across multiple devices in the network.

For example, network management software will provide you the capabilities for setting up rules for VLAN management which target the network layers. Additional capabilities include establishing QoS policies, routing protocols, and other network layer configuration tasks. But you would also be able to provision all Ethernet interfaces as 100 Mbps full duplex circuits instead of relying on auto negotiation. This capability targets the data link layers and is highly recommended over relying on auto negotiation. So while the network management pieces tend to lean toward network layer configuration, you may use them for lower layer management. There's a few pieces that they will do with upper layer configuration but that tends to vary more.

This was last published in January 2009

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