The Network Manager's Wish List
Today, industry experts and analysts characterize the network monitoring and performance management market as fragmented. Each solution offers a variety of functions aimed at managing different parts of the network or the application, and there is still a gap between network performance management and application performance management. Organizations would like to consolidate the tools they use, but not at the expense of choosing and building a best-of-breed suite. To deliver real performance to the business, network managers looking for a sophisticated network monitoring and performance management solution should put these capabilities on their wish-list of features:
The discovery of all the systems within an IT infrastructure and the ability to map their current configurations and interdependencies;
Identification of applications at Layer 7, rather than just a set of ports or protocols;
Real-time visibility into how applications are performing across the entire infrastructure-from back-end servers to end-user desktops-with the ability to drill down into all the underlying components across the WAN that support that application;
Performance data that is granular enough to identify traffic patterns causing over-utilized circuits, protocol mismatches, etc.;
Automation that learns the typical interactions across the network at various times and then compares those baselines with current conditions, without the need for an administrator to set any hard thresholds;
Historical trending and rich reporting features that can be used and understood by both technical and non-technical people;
Retrospective analysis that can pinpoint the root cause of intermittent, hard-to-find problems; and
The ability to leverage existing investments in network hardware, software and IT skills.
A Unified View of IT That Starts at the Top and Drills Down Deep
The main goal of a network monitoring and performance management solution is to provide IT managers and others with a comprehensive view of how their key applications, systems and networks are performing individually and collectively. With so many organizations looking to reduce costs through server consolidation, virtualization and data center transformation, it can become more difficult to monitor and manage the IT environment. For example, visibility into applications is often reduced in virtualized or cloud-based infrastructures because application logic is split amongst a variety of servers, and there can be upgrades and new releases of code daily or weekly that impact performance. In addition, many network performance management tools have difficulty drilling down seamlessly from a high-level, network-wide view down to the detailed metrics and transaction-level analysis required to resolve specific application performance problems.
Unified management solutions-particularly those with built-in automation designed to help organizations monitor and manage performance and availability from a cohesive, end-to-end view-are becoming top-of-mind concerns for both IT and line of business executives, according to a study conducted by research and consulting firm Enterprise Management Associates (EMA).
In fact, at 53 percent of the companies EMA surveyed, C-level IT executives, directors or managers are shaping their organization's application and IT management strategy, and in 42 percent of those surveyed, C-level executives are directly involved in planning, implementing or promoting application management (compared to 37 percent in 2008). Moreover, application management acquisitions are increasingly being funded out of IT executive versus IT operations budgets, the survey found.
Network monitoring and performance management tools continue to evolve to better equip IT with the sophistication they need to ensure the network can deliver and sustain the performance required to optimally run the business. And, more IT departments are starting to leverage these tools to more successfully maneuver their increasingly complex infrastructures, and to plan strategic IT projects such as cloud computing, WAN optimization and data center consolidation. No doubt there is room for progress on both fronts, but fortunately that progression is proceeding.