The modern network has become the backbone for all IT infrastructure. Along the way, it evolved into a multi-headed beast -- one that must be tamed to ensure the network is capable of supporting nearly any form of data, including application, cloud, compute, storage, video and voice traffic. But some networking professionals say the fabled weapon of choice -- one network management tool to rule them all -- is still more myth than reality. And in some sense, that's OK.
That's because the need to understand multiple realms of technology means that the idea of a single tool for all network functions is not something that entirely works for many organizations. Some vendors talk about the holy grail of network management being a "single pane of glass" for visibility and control, but it's not an idea that IT pros like Ant Lefebvre buy into. "Every tool has its purpose, but no tool can do everything," says Lefebvre, senior systems engineer at Middlesex Hospital in Middletown, Conn. "The single pane of glass is really a single glass of pain."
New challenges in network management
A number of trends -- including virtualization and the convergence of storage, networking and compute -- has shifted enterprises' network performance monitoring requirements. With the added complexity of software-defined networking (SDN) and cloud computing, the challenge of network visibility is further compounded. Simply having visibility into routers and switches doesn't provide a full picture of what is going on in a network. Outsourcing network monitoring to a cloud provider works best for businesses with smaller networks that don't have much data to export, he says. Enterprises with a large number of ports and devices need to have a device physically attached to the network to be able to grab all of the data. Choosing the right set of tools If there isn't a single platform, then what tools are in play for this era of network management? The quick answer: There is no shortage of options. And despite so many new challenges, some old-school methods are still best. The most fundamental part has always been knowing exactly what networking equipment is in place. And for as long as there have been networks, one of the most common ways to track network devices has been the use of a spreadsheet. That's still true today.
At the core: Solving business problems
Given that the single-pane-of-glass tool approach isn't likely the best approach, what should network managers actually do? Well, the core of any business planning should be based on the issue at hand – what are you trying to accomplish? Understanding your environment is critical for success. Let us at Corporate Technologies Group help you get started!