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Five characteristics of advanced network monitoring

Level 11

As federal technology environments become more complex, the processes and practices used to monitor those environments must evolve to stay ahead of -- and mitigate -- potential risks and challenges.

Network monitoring is one of the core IT management processes that demands focus and attention in order to be effective. In fact, there are five characteristics of advanced network monitoring that signal a forward-looking, sophisticated solution:

  1. Dependency-aware network monitoring
  2. Intelligent alerting systems
  3. Capacity forecasting
  4. Dynamic network mapping
  5. Application-aware network performance

It might be time to start thinking about evolving your monitoring solution to keep up.

1. Dependency-aware network monitoring

Network monitoring is a relatively basic function, sending status pings from devices on your agency’s network so you know they’re operational. Some solutions offer a little bit more with the ability to see connectivity -- which devices are connected to each other.

A sophisticated network monitoring system, however, provides all dependency information: what’s connected, network topology, device dependencies and routing protocols. This type of solution then takes that dependency information and builds a theoretical picture of the health of your agency’s network to help you effectively prioritize network alerts.

2. Intelligent alerting system

The key to implementing an advanced network monitoring solution is having an intelligent alerting system that triggers alerts based on dynamic baselines calculated from historical data. An alerting system that understands the dependencies among devices can significantly reduce the number of alerts being escalated.

Intelligent alerting will also allow an organization to “tune” alerts so that admins get only one ticket when there is a storm of similar events, or that alerts are sent only after a condition has persisted for a significant period of time.

3. Capacity forecasting

An agency wide view of utilization for key metrics, including bandwidth, disk space, CPU and RAM, plays two very important roles in capacity forecasting:

1.    When you have a baseline, you can see how far above or below normal the network is functioning; you can see trends over time and can be prepared for changes on your network.

2.    Because procurement can be a lengthy process, having the ability to forecast capacity requirements months in advance allows you to have a solution in place when the capacity is needed.

4. Dynamic network mapping

Dynamic network mapping allows you to take dependency information one step further and display it on a single screen, with interactive, dynamic maps that can display link utilization, device performance metrics, automated geolocation and wireless heat maps.

5. Application-aware network performance

Users often blame the application, but is it really the application? Application-aware network performance monitoring collects information on individual applications as well as network data and correlates the two to determine what is causing an issue. You’ll be able to see if it is the application itself causing the issue or if there is a problem on the network.

As I mentioned, federal technology environments are getting more complex; at the same time, budgets remain tight. Evolving your network monitoring solution will help with both of these challenges -- it will keep you ahead of the technology curve and help meet budget and forecasting challenges.

Find the full article on GCN.

14 Comments
Level 17

Very important points if you want your monitoring to stay relevant and seen as a need, rather than just something that needs to be updated all the time.

Thanks for putting this together!

MVP
MVP

Good points...

Dynamic baselines...great in theory but if the baseline creeps up slowly over time, where is the hard stop we have a problem as you may not have a sudden spike.  Capacity planning "should" cover this...but as the normal dynamically changes over time there may be no sudden deviation....it is still within "norms".

Application aware network performance while cut and dried in some instances becomes challenging in a large environment when the application is spread across 4, 8, 21 servers or more and the traffic is encrypted.  There you need ARM tools to monitor at the transaction level and have ways to track the transaction in and out of the network.

Level 14

Well written and on point.  Thank you

I don't want to come off as sounding too critical, but I challenge these 5 components as "Advanced". To me these seem to be leaning towards more foundational components to build off of. In this day and age of "DevOps", "SDN", and "Cloud", components  like "dynamic", "flexible", and "UX" are all the rage. The IT landscape perception is more virtual than physical now. APM success is a dodgy beast because of concepts like waterfall, agile, and rapid deployment development. Monitoring needs to keep up or are they will be seen as a roadblock to progress.

May I humbly suggest some "advanced" ground work that is prerequisite?

  • Sufficient staff resources to learn the products well.  This includes training and certifications.
  • Sufficient financial resources dedicated to the appropriate monitoring tools, which will point to the servers, network, QoS, data bases, and Applications
  • Sufficient time for the staff to implement the appropriate monitoring

After these are in play you'll be able to move forward on points 1-5.

MVP
MVP

Your list is spot on. Without that, you can't really be "on top" of your network.

Level 11

I like the article, but I would have to agree with some of the previous comments.  It seems like the five characteristics are more like the foundation to build from than advanced Network Monitoring.  When it comes to the virtual environment I would like to know what others are using for advanced network monitoring.

Level 14

Very good list.  The problem that we have is that we have to get the government to actually invest in the monitoring of the actual applications....

Level 14

Any suggestions?

Level 21

I am going to have to agree with Jfrazier​ (as I usually do).  I think a few of these items may be a tad over simplified in how they are stated.  Working for an MSP I don't have the luxury of spending a lot of time fine-tuning the system for a single for a few environments, I have a whole lot of environments I have to manage all with one monitoring system an one pane of glass which makes this a while different type of challenge.

Also, I think something that is missing are some good ole' reports that are reviewed by actual people.  People will spot things very quickly and can apply contextual awareness that a system can't do.  Regular audits and capacity management done by people using reports generated by your system can be invaluable.

MVP
MVP

Agreed on that human review, I am often sad how many clients don't really even want me to put together any Solarwinds reports for them because they just view it as more noise in their inbox.  Well defined reports can point out impending problems or roll things up into neat summaries rather than just be 10 pages that you have to comb through it to find anything useful.  Hard to set those up without good feedback from the people who live in those environments though.

MVP
MVP

Buy Solarwinds!

MVP
MVP

I'm lucky in the sense that I only have 1 environment to look after so fine-tuning is always done. I personally rely on reports to be proactive rather than reactive. We also have a capacity manager that hooks into the Solarwinds stats. These people appreciate a good monitoring and reporting system. Makes their job a whole lot easier.

Level 20

Being secure is another good one.