I joined SolarWinds a few weeks ago as a Product Marketing Manager. Though I had worked as a PMM earlier at AOL for Winamp, I still found that I have a lot to learn about the Network Management space (as well as how SolarWinds has remained so successful in it). In my usual fashion, I began gathering a list of sources to help me get started. Now, all of us approach learning a new topic in different ways. We have different questions that come to us at different points of time and in a different sequence. So as I embark on my path of learning I thought it would be helpful to share these questions I have, discuss the resources I am using to find answers, and get your insights into these topics along the way.  Who knows, maybe there are other newbies in the community that want to learn with me. 

 

So where did I start? Well, I figure it was best to understand what exactly is Network Management and why is it said to be such a large field?  I read Alexander Clemm’s book on Network Management Fundamentals. I found it very useful as it gives a good eagle’s eye view of everything that anybody related to this topic needs to know. It could be a network engineer, a VP or a product marketing manager. I highly recommend this book to newbees.

 

Alexander defines Network management as “activities, methods, procedures, and tools that pertain to the operation, administration, maintenance, and provisioning of networked systems.” Specifically, it consists of the following tasks:

  • Operations: deals with making sure the network is up and running. It includes network performance monitoring and making sure all problems are resolved asap.
  • Administration: deals with making sure resources such as devices, equipment and network management software are assigned properly and a tab is kept on them
  • Maintenance: involves performing repairs and upgrades . This includes both corrective and preventive measures.
  • Provisioning: means configuring the resources to support the required services.

 

Now what does this really mean? I’ll give an example that Alexander has given in his book. Network management is analogous to throwing a party !

 

When you throw a party, depending on the number of people you want to invite, you decide what the menu would be and how much food will be required. This is based on the guests’ needs. Depending on the number of people and your own abilities, you decide whether to cook it yourself or hire a caterer. If you cook it yourself, what should the ingredients be and where would you buy them from? Depending on where you live, you need to decide whether to host it at home or hire a place. Depending on the season you need to figure where to keep the coats or the hats. As the party proceeds, you need to monitor if people need more drinks, if someone has had enough already. Is the heating / cooling fine? Is the music fine? And at the end of the party, you also need to do the entire cleanup.

 

Similarly when you want to manage a network, you have to first figure out who the network is for. How many people exist in the organization and what their needs are? What services need to be provided by the network and what should be the capacity of such services? What type of network traffic monitoring will you need? How many devices will you need and of what type? Is it your business’ core competence to manage networks? If not, who should you hire to plan and implement the network? Do you have space, if not, do you need to lease a data center in some geography which suits cost and tax related issues? Once it is up and running, how would you monitor it? Would you hire some organization / consultant to monitor it? If you do it yourself, what tools and human resources would you need? Over a period of time when devices need to be added, removed or upgraded, how would you do that? And when devices need to be decommissioned, what needs to be done? The goal of the network management party is for its users to feel as happy and have as much fun as the regular party you would want to throw for your friends.


 

Throw a partyManage a network
# of people# of users
Food: Menu, cook / catererServices, do it yourself / hire a consultant / consulting company
Place: home / party hallData center: own / hired, on premise / off premise
During the party: Does anyone need more soup, has someone had enough drinks already?Managing a network: Is the network down? Is the bandwidth enough?
After party lean upDecommissioning the network or its devices

 













So as you can see, there is a lot of work involved in Network Management and it is indeed a HUGE field. If you’re new to Network Management and have a question or you’re an “old pro” that can share additional insight or recommendations, we’d love to hear from you.  I’m certain I will be able to navigate this HUGE field with help from you, the SolarWinds community. Until next time…..Happy Navigating!

 

Tanu