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AI, analytics, automation fuel the future of network management

Advances in automation, AI and analytics should help IT administrators overcome new challenges in virtualized network environments, but some obstacles will surface.

In a time when bandwidth speeds are soaring and networks are more virtualized and complex, getting a clear view into network activity can be complicated. With an increasing number of organizations employing hybrid and multi-cloud strategies, network monitoring can be a difficult endeavor.

Adding to the complexity, most enterprises typically rely on multiple tools, which requires IT administrators to cobble together data. As a result, getting an accurate look at network activity becomes even more difficult.

Looking ahead, networks are expected to become faster and more virtualized. Additionally, network applications are expected to become more abstracted from the underlying hardware with the rise of containers and microservices. Because of these changes, the future of network management and monitoring will need to adapt -- and do so quickly.

The alternative, at best, is the risk of inefficiency. At worst, frequent outages could counter the profound advances in networking technology.

In the current environments, network management and monitoring vendors are looking to improve the efficacy of their tools. At the same time, vendors are trying to keep up with the wider adoption of emerging technologies, such as software-defined WAN and 5G. Innovations in adjacent and supporting technology, such as automation, are being integrated into network monitoring tools to fortify them for these fast-changing enterprise network environments.

The merger of network and application monitoring

As we assess the future of network management, what changes can IT groups expect to see over the next two to three years? For starters, network management vendors are trying to address the issue of disparate tools that try to tackle different elements of the network. Work is ongoing to better integrate data culled from different tools to get better insights into network use and performance.

Going forward, expect to see more tools that try to address end-to-end network visibility, including resources that are running outside the traditional perimeter in third-party clouds. These tools are similar to legacy management services that tried to establish a baseline across the enterprise. These tools would monitor activity between devices in the heterogeneous network and flag performance issues before they led to service disruptions.

The future of network management

Current network monitoring services already feature dashboards that support customized slicing and dicing of data to drill down on specific services. Vendors and buyers are pushing to align network monitoring with application management to get a more detailed picture of enterprise operations.

In the next two to three years, the marriage of network and application monitoring is likely to advance significantly.

In the next two to three years, as we assess the future of network management, the marriage of network and application monitoring is likely to advance significantly.

Network monitoring meets network security

Network administrators want to perform more flow-based analysis to fine-tune network configurations and optimize service quality. Significant progress in analytics has enabled IT to better assess bottlenecks and other network trouble spots. This progress is showing real promise for the future of network management.

Vendors are already incorporating analytics into their network performance monitoring and management services. Ongoing advances in analytics will be incorporated into future services to improve accuracy and increase insights into network operations.

Innovations in AI and machine learning are also informing the future of network management by helping discern dangerous activities or troubling trends from harmless anomalies. Vendors continue to invest in improving the speed at which their tools can recognize disruptive traffic patterns that diverge from normal activity.

Machine learning development efforts are moving forward to make the technology more accurate, which should reduce the percentage of false alerts in future network management and monitoring services.

Automation accelerates problem solving

Vendors are also looking to automation to improve the effectiveness of their network monitoring and management services in the near term. Going forward, automation has multiple roles to play in network monitoring services.

For example, automation can remove the manual tasks associated with synthetic testing so it can occur on a regular, ongoing basis. Automated alerts, including escalation to the service desk and beyond in certain situations, can also lead to more immediate troubleshooting and resolution.

The ultimate promise of automation in network monitoring and management is in problem resolution. Vendors are working on different ways to incorporate automated response capabilities into their network management tools, but actual customer adoption of this workflow remains questionable.

All of these advances should go a long way toward improving the network monitoring process in the near term. However, the continued rapid evolution of the enterprise will pose significant challenges that will need to be addressed in tandem.

This was last published in March 2020

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