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5 needed product features to fix network management issues

Virtualization and public cloud monitoring are among five top network management issues facing companies as they assess tools designed to oversee increasingly complex networks.

Networks today are more complex, more distributed and more dynamic than ever before. Automation, intent-based networking...

and software-based designs, in the meantime, are transforming how networks are architected and managed. As a result, network management and monitoring tools have had to evolve quickly to meet the demands associated with overseeing an increasingly diverse landscape of networking topologies.

To that end, vendors have added new capabilities, some based on machine learning and AI, to help customers keep more accurate tabs on network performance.

Yet more work needs to be done to address network management issues. Here are five key areas networking managers say need improvement to satisfy their operational concerns.

1. Advanced network analytics

Network analytics tools -- through pattern recognition, anomaly detection and other features -- are giving enterprises unprecedented ability to determine how users are interacting with the network. By combing through multiple data sources, network analytics can provide companies with real-time information they can exploit to remediate issues and keep network operations running efficiently.

Extensive analytics is also seen as a fundamental ingredient in network automation, which permits companies to dynamically provision, troubleshoot and manage their networks more efficiently.

But hurdles remain. Many networks use networking components from a variety of vendors, making data collection difficult. Additionally, networks are increasingly distributed, with devices and users placed in multiple locations. Ensuring that network analytics tools are getting an accurate picture of the entire network is essential.

2. Monitoring and management of the public cloud

If comprehensive network analytics is the chief concern of network managers, public cloud monitoring and management are a close second. With companies placing more of their critical workloads in the public cloud, enterprises need tools that can measure the performance of networks outside of their direct control.

Poor visibility and fragmented networking can leave enterprises unsure of whether their overall service delivery network is meeting expectations. A company's existing network management and monitoring foundation may be incapable of tracking public cloud performance. Therefore, enterprises may have to deploy customized tools and then attempt to integrate them with their existing frameworks, which can lead to additional challenges.

Automation can ease some of these concerns, along with creating a monitoring strategy that focuses on key performance indicators rather than attempting to monitor every component across internal and external environments. As a result, companies can streamline their public cloud monitoring and reduce the amount of monitoring data that isn't considered critical.

3. Monitoring and management of virtualized network devices

Virtualization has enabled companies to maximize the efficiency and productivity of their compute resources. At the same time, virtualization has made it more difficult for network monitoring and management systems to track resources that, instead of being individual pieces of hardware, are pure software. As a result, a network monitoring tool's effectiveness can be diminished, leaving IT staff in the dark about potential problems and hobbling their ability to resolve issues when first diagnosed.

For example, network monitoring products can be hamstrung by rapid changes in the virtualized environment. Components are instantiated as needed, migrated to where demand is the highest and eliminated when necessary. Network management tools must be able to account for all these changes, and they also must be able to understand how to handle virtual components.

The physical network, meanwhile, remains an important consideration. As such, network management software must be able to track performance across both environments -- virtual and physical -- to provide an accurate picture of network performance.

4. Integrated security insights

As network attacks become more sophisticated and costly, enterprises are looking for additional ways to secure their networks. One increasingly popular strategy is to integrate network management and monitoring with security tools.

Among other benefits, this tactic enables network managers to play a bigger role in addressing security risk, especially at the design phase when all available resources can be brought to bear.

Information collected by network management tools can be shared with security teams. As management vendors incorporate automation, machine learning and AI into their products, these methodologies can provide additional protection against threats, especially as networks become more automated and distributed.

Such advancements will benefit managers whose responsibilities include supporting and collaborating with security teams.

5. Monitoring and management of IoT devices

IoT places new demands on the modern enterprise network, including the volume of devices being deployed and the sophistication of those devices. Cisco estimated there will be almost 15 billion IoT devices connected to networks by 2023. As companies deploy more complex devices, such as medical equipment and intelligent industrial sensors, to their networks, keeping track of this gear requires a management system that can monitor countless proprietary technologies across both wired and wireless infrastructures. Network managers need management tools that can both monitor connectivity and the performance of the critical applications IoT devices support.

This was last published in April 2020

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