Network Management as a Service

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The farther along we get in the IT-as-a-Service model, the more it seems that the real goal is to forge a simpler and more direct way of managing and monitoring enterprise networks.

One by one, it seems that many of the top enterprise vendors are looking for ways to drive traditional network-management systems into obsolescence in favor if virtual or cloud-based applications that can be delivered across multiple topologies using a fraction of the resources currently in use.

One example is Citrix's new set of virtualized management services for the HP Network Fabric. The company has tied its NetScaler VPX Web application delivery system to the HP 5400zl and 8400zl switch families, allowing enterprises to embed application-layer intelligence and control directly onto the fabric layer. In essence, the package combines LAN switching and L4-7 load balancing onto a single platform, turning a high-cost network-management responsibility into a low-cost virtual service. Enterprises will be able to carry these services to the core and aggregation layers through HP's AllianceONE Services zl Module.

HP users also stand to benefit from the nGenius Integrated Agent from NetScout. Essentially a virtual version of the company's nGenius Probe, the system extends hi-def packet-flow monitoring and analysis to the edge via the HP E8200 and E5400 switches. This eliminates the need for stand-alone monitoring hardware, delivering vital network data to the HP Networking, HP Software Business Technology Optimization and ArcSight ETRM platforms.

At the same time, new enabling technologies are making it easier to push applications over the network. LSI Corp. just released the Azzia network accelerator, a PCIe-based card and bundled software package designed to offload some of the more resource-hungry networking applications, such as load balancing, unified threat management and delivery control. The device should give OEMs a boost in new high-speed networking environments, while a companion development kit will allow them to tailor solutions to specific network applications.

It's no surprise, then, that more and more service providers are starting to add network management to their portfolios, particularly in developing countries where in-house management systems are not as well entrenched. Visual Network Systems recently teamed up with Malaysia's VADS Gerhard to deliver VNS' Visual Performance Management as part of a growing roster of enterprise intelligence services. The combo delivers tools like application classification, real-time network monitoring, automated threshold and alert and capacity planning.

As virtualization and cloud computing place greater emphasis on network infrastructure to deliver not just data, but applications and operating environments as well, effective network monitoring will be a crucial component of enterprise operations budgets going forward.

Service providers can usually deliver key networking applications at lower costs. Now they have to prove they can match the performance enterprises have come to expect from their in-house systems.