The management functions of contemporary networks are usually a complete mystery to essentially everyone in IT who is not directly concerned with network operations.
Sure, network management consoles help configure, operate, monitor and troubleshoot the network. But it's also a rich source of information that can be used to evaluate ROI, verify end users are achieving maximum productivity and plan the evolution of the network itself.
To that end, it's time to make this rich store of information more widely available, perhaps even to departmental and line-of-business managers.
The best way to assure the network is indeed working as intended is to monitor and evaluate the activities of users and, from time to time, consult with them on what needs improvement, making sure hard data reflecting reality is at the center of that conversation.
Network management consoles redesigned with intuitive interfaces
The complicating factor is network management software has never really been simple enough to use as a foundation of actionable information. It's intended for a select group of highly experienced networking professionals who require its functionality to do their jobs.
Indeed, many shops are still using a command-line interface to configure individual network elements -- despite the fact it's difficult, complex and can complicate network operations.
Thankfully, today's network management consoles have become easier to use, albeit still geared toward networking professionals. Even as networking has become more complex, enhancements in network design -- primarily fabrics -- have made it possible for companies to improve reliability and the productivity of their operations staffs.
Network management consoles have also been redesigned with more graphical and intuitive management interfaces. Cloud-based management and analytics tools, meantime, can be accessed via any browser. As a result, the industry can obtain management and performance data that's far more predictable, reliable and convenient. In other words, it's almost like an anytime, anywhere network operations center that can fit into a pocket or purse.
Network analytics software provides added insights
Beyond the traditional monitoring and control of network management consoles, wired and wireless analytics have also become essential within network operations. In a nutshell, analytics lets managers automatically comb through the huge amount of data generated by network components to pinpoint network behavior.
We see an emerging link between analytics and management software where network analytics software has become robust enough to uncover -- and even offer suggestions to remedy -- issues before they become serious.
We're also seeing the introduction of AI and machine learning capabilities within network analytics tools. The combination of a rules-based system management foundation -- driven by software that can learn a network's given behavior -- is a benefit that happens only rarely, even in high tech.
This will open the door to enterprises being able to share their network management performance data with one another. Cloud-based analytics and management software can import performance data from a huge number of customers, which can be used as a benchmark. The availability of a vast array of operational data -- collected in real time -- will only help companies improve how they oversee their networks.
Tracking future trends
In this space of network management consoles, two other trends are emerging.
First is the use of construction kits, allowing customers to build any console or report required just by stringing together preconfigured functional blocks. This form of graphical programming has already been applied in many fields, and the ability to normalize monitoring, control and reporting to individual preferences would be spectacular. Each individual operator, for example, might have its own console that works the way it does.
And, finally, look for policy-based networking as a further input to AI and machine-learning-based consoles. It's all about what you want from the network and not how you need to program it to achieve the desired results.