Tips for Managing Wireless Sensor Networks in Your Data Center

By Paul Parker, SolarWinds Federal & National Government Chief Technologist

Here is an interesting article from my colleague, Joe Kim, in which he points out some of the challenges of managing wireless sensor networks.

For several years, government network administrators have tried to turn knowledge into action to keep their networks and data centers running optimally and efficiently. For instance, they have adopted automated network monitoring to better manage increasingly complex data centers.

Now, a new factor has entered this equation: wireless sensor networks. These networks are composed of spatially distributed, autonomous sensors that monitor physical or environmental conditions within data centers to detect conditions such as sound, temperature, or humidity levels.

However, wireless sensor networks can be extraordinarily complex, as they are capable of providing a very large amount of data. This can make it difficult for managers to get an accurate read on the type of information their connected devices are capturing, which in turn can throw into question the effectiveness of an agency’s network monitoring processes. 

Fortunately, there are several steps federal IT managers can take to help ease the burden of managing, maintaining, and improving the efficacy of their wireless sensor networks. By following these guidelines, administrators can take the knowledge they receive from their sensor arrays and make it work for their agencies.

Establish a baseline for more effective measurement and security

Before implementing wireless sensors, managers should first monitor their wireless networks to create a baseline of activity. Only with this data will teams be able to accurately determine whether or not their wireless sensor networks are delivering the desired results.

Establishing a baseline allows managers to more easily identify any changes in network activity after their sensors are deployed, which, in turn, provides a true picture of network functionality. Also, a baseline provides a reference point for potential security issues.

Set trackable metrics to monitor performance and deliver ROI

Following the baseline assessment, administrators should configure trackable metrics to help them get the most out of their wireless sensor networks. For example, bandwidth monitoring that lets managers track usage over time can help them more effectively and efficiently allocate network resources. Watching monthly usage trends can also help teams better plan for future deployments and adjust budgets accordingly.

Metrics (along with the initial baseline) also can help agencies achieve measurable results. The goal is to know specifically what is needed from devices so that teams can get the most out of their wireless sensors. With metrics in hand, managers can understand whether or not their deployments are delivering the best return on investment.

Apply appropriate network monitoring tools to keep watch over sensor arrays

Network monitoring principles should be applied to wireless sensor networks to help ensure that they continue to operate effectively and securely. For instance, network performance and bandwidth monitoring software can be effective at identifying potential network anomalies and problematic usage patterns. These and other tools can also be used to forecast device scalability and threshold alerts, allowing managers to act on the information that sensors are sending out.

These tools, along with the other strategies mentioned above, are designed to do one thing: provide knowledge that can be turned into effective action. Managers can use these practices to bridge the gap between the raw data that their sensors are providing and the steps needed to keep their networks and applications running. And there is nothing scary about that.

Find the full article on Government Computer News.

  • I agree, but those decisions are made above me and I tell those that take it up the ladder and they choose to do what is being done.

  • Yep you always run into that. We are lucky enough to have some pretty good contractors in the area I work in.

  • I wouldn't be popular in that environment.  I patiently explain why doing it right trumps doing it conveniently, why doing it wrong costs more than doing it right.  And I remind folks that there's ALWAYS time to do things the right way.  Then I outline the plan to remediate the problems and begin correcting them.

    Hand-in-hand comes a policy that defines what's acceptable and what's not, and it details why the decisions were made.  That gives you the power to say "no" to poor assumptions based on insufficient knowledge.  It let's you say "no" to bad security practices.  It helps users understand why you said "no" to wireless devices that have no mobility requirements.

    Yes, I wouldn't be popular there.  But the network would be more secure, operate more reliably, and be much faster.

    And costs would decrease while productivity increased.  It would take a while for griping to go down, but convenience does trump security, speed, reliability, and cost.

  • Wireless is a convenience.

    Convenience is and will always be a compromise.

    What is compromised will vary on various factors.

  • Totally agree - unfortunately we have a lot of people with that mentality and so there's all kinds of "things" on our network. And on the wireless front we have desktop PCs in some areas, sitting right next to a wall outlet, with a wireless card being utilized. And there are a number of people with laptops set to work on the wireless - yet they never, ever leave their docks. Kind of the rule is if the user wants it they get it.

    Did I say something, somewhere about management?