By Paul Parker, SolarWinds Federal & National Government Chief Technologist


Here is an interesting article from Federal Technology Insider on monitoring complex networks, as presented by one of our customers during our Federal User Group meeting earlier this year.


When it comes to monitoring and managing complex IT networks, it would seem that the ideal solution would be to build custom tools uniquely suited for the environment.


Or is it?


As David A. Richards, Senior Technical Manager EOSS/GuardNet, one of the largest Department of Defense (DoD) networks, shared recently at the SolarWinds Federal User Group, “When it comes to ensuring the safety, security, and continuous operation of GuardNet, it’s vitally important that we be able to customize our tools to achieve organizational objectives and make actionable decisions.”


His team found themselves in a position where they were inundated with information and couldn’t find the proverbial needle in the haystack. The opportunity to break out of the cycle of information overload, analysis paralysis, and circular discussions came in the form of network management and monitoring tools from SolarWinds.


While the assumption might be that ‘out-of-the-box’ tools wouldn’t be able to cope with the rigors of a complex environment like GuardNet, the tools came with a significant strategic advantage: native customization capabilities.


Starting with a customer-generated architecture diagram, Richards and his team were able to rebuild the network to meet not only today’s needs, but also to prepare for additional demands on the network that will come as the DoD rolls out the Joint Regional Security Stacks (JRSS). The JRSS will add more nodes on a global scale and will also require compliance with new DISA security standards that will apply across the DoD, including GuardNet.


So what advice does Richards have for other government IT leaders who are responsible for complex networks?


  • Stop thinking in terms of single devices. Start thinking of the network as an ecosystem and identify dependencies within the ecosystem.
  • Use monitoring tools to help visualize the network. Draw a map, color code it, and share it.
  • Identify patterns of failure and recurring problem areas, overlay them on the map, and target those areas for remediation.
  • Move from a technical diagram to a format that can communicate the business value to secure funding for additional network monitoring tools that can help automate routine tasks, such as load balancing and patch updating.


These lessons were invaluable to Richards and his team during last year’s hurricane crisis in Puerto Rico. Following Hurricane Maria, sites in Puerto Rico could no longer monitor GuardNet. Richards and his team ensured that sites on the mainland were able to add that workload. While the initial step was just to see what parts of the network and devices were up or down, they were able to quickly access credentials and add specific device monitoring and management to help ensure continuity of operations.


As Richards shared, “The ability to create a regional view of the situation in a very short period of time gave better insight into areas of most damage and criticality and got us on the right track to normal operations much more quickly than anyone anticipated.”


Learn about solutions that offer network management and monitoring in any circumstance here.


Find the full article on Government Technology Insider.


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