By Joe Kim, SolarWinds Chief Technology Officer
Federal IT professionals must consider the sheer volume and variety of devices connected to their networks, from fitness wearables to laptops, tablets, and smartphones. The Internet of Things (IoT) and the cloud also significantly impact bandwidth and present security concerns, spurred by incidents such as the Office of Personnel Management breach of 2014.
Despite this chaotic and ever-changing IT environment, for the Defense Department, network and data center consolidation is well underway, layering additional concerns on top of an already complex backdrop. Since 2011, the DoD has closed more than 500 data centers. That’s well below the goal the agency initially set forth, and it issued a directive last year to step up the pace; and subsequently, the Data Center Optimization Initiative was introduced to further speed efforts.
To be successful, federal IT professionals need a system that accounts for all of the data that soon will stream through their networks. They also need to get a handle on all the devices employees use and will use to access and share that data, all while ensuring network security.
Meeting the Challenges of Tomorrow Today
Network monitoring has become absolutely essential, but some solutions are simply not capable of dealing with the reality of today’s networks.
Increasingly, federal IT managers house some applications on-premises while others use hosted solutions, creating a hybrid IT environment that can be difficult to manage. Administrators will continue to go this route as they attempt to fulfill the DoD's ultimate goal: greater efficiency. Hybrid IT creates monitoring challenges, as it makes it difficult for administrators to “see” everything that is going on with the applications.
Going Beyond the Basics
This complexity will require network administrators to go beyond initial monitoring strategies and begin implementing processes that provide visibility into the entire network infrastructure, whether it’s on-premises or hosted. Hop-by-hop analysis lets administrators effectively map critical pathways and gain invaluable insight into the devices and applications using the network. It provides a complete view of all network activity, which will become increasingly important as consolidation accelerates.
At the very least, every IT organization should employ monitoring best practices to proactively plan for consolidation and ensuing growth, including:
- Adding dedicated monitoring experts who can provide holistic views of agencies’ current infrastructure and calculate future needs.
- Helping to ensure that teams understand the nuances of monitoring hardware, networks, applications, virtualization, and configurations and that they have access to a comprehensive suite of monitoring tools.
- Equipping teams with tools that address scalability needs. This will be exceptionally important as consolidation begins to truly take flight and data needs rapidly expand.
Looking Reality in the Eye
DoD network consolidation is a slow, yet major undertaking, and a necessity to help ensure efficiency. It comes with extreme challenges, particularly a much greater degree of network complexity. Effectively wrangling this complexity requires network administrators to go beyond simple monitoring and embrace a more comprehensive monitoring strategy that will better prepare them for their future.
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