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One Company's Journey Out of Darkness: Part II What Tools Should We Have?

Level 10

I've had the opportunity over the past couple of years to work with a large customer of mine on a refresh of their entire infrastructure. Network management tools were one of the last pieces to be addressed as emphasis had been on legacy hardware first and the direction for management tools had not been established. This mini-series will highlight this company's journey and the problems solved, insights gained, as well as unresolved issues that still need addressing in the future. Hopefully this help other companies or individuals going through the process. Topics will include discovery around types of tools, how they are being used, who uses them and for what purpose, their fit within the organization, and lastly what more they leave to be desired.

Blog Series

One Company's Journey Out of Darkness, Part I: What Tools Do We Have?

One Company's Journey Out of Darkness, Part II: What Tools Should We Have?

One Company's Journey Out of Darkness, Part III: Justification of the Tools

One Company's Journey Out of Darkness, Part IV: Who Should Use the Tools?

One Company's Journey Out of Darkness, Part V: Seeing the Light

One Company's Journey Out of Darkness, Part VI: Looking Forward

IT organizations who have followed this segregated path of each team purchasing the tools they need tend to have some areas that have sufficient monitoring as well as areas in which there no visibility exists.  Predictably these gaps in visibility tend to reside between areas of responsibility or the "gray space" within an organization. Common examples of gray space could be the interaction between applications, clients and the transport between the two, the network and mobile devices, guest devices/users and their traffic patterns, help desk and network issues.

In a collaborative environment, the team is able to review the entirety of the tool set and discuss where gaps may exist. It is important that the right players have a seat at the table for these discussions - this will range from traditional network, application, security, and help desk teams to some of the newer teams like the mobile device teams. Spend some time exploring pain points within the existing work flows as these may stem from lack of knowledge that could be supplemented by one of the tools. There may be tools that aren't shared and that is quite alright, taking a phased approach to implementing tool sets on a wider basis will help ensure that these groups are getting tools that impact their ability to do their job.

With my customer we found the following to work:

Network Management

Consolidate network and wireless management tools to create "single pane of glass"

Troubleshooting tools helped the help desk resolve issues faster and provided them with access to info that could be more difficult to walk end users through providing.

Increase awareness of Netman and ensure contractors know how to use it

Point Solutions

Expand access to IPAM solution to include help desk and contractors as it helps with network address planning and troubleshooting

Increase awareness of available scripts and create internal portal so that others know where to find them and how to use them

Expand NAC Integration Through APIs

Integrate NAC via its APIs so that it shared data with IPAM and firewall improving network visibility for guests and improving reporting

Integrate NAC with log aggregation tool so that it has more device data

Expand log aggregation tool access to all senior IT staff


Improve ticketing system notification to include facilities for outage window

Create documentation repository on cloud storage so that all IT members can reach it

Issues to Address

Visibility into data center infrastructure is lacking

Legacy cloud managed switches floating around that need to be dealt with.  These have a great management platform in their own right, but they aren't integrated properly

Mobile device visibility and management at this point

Server visibility tools have not been shared with anyone outside of server team at this point as we are evaluating

Application performance management

The development of organizational tools should be an iterative process and each step should bring the company closer to its goals. The total value of a well integrated management system is greater than the sum of its parts as it can eliminate some of the holes in the processes. While many positive changes have been made, there are still many more to work through. This company has opted for a pace that enables them to make slow steady process on these tools while having to maintain day to day operations and plan for many future tools. Brand new tools will likely be integrated by VARs/System Integrators to ensure full deployment while minimizing impact on the IT staff.


What is your forecast time period for this ?

Does it account for time required to "keep the lights on" as well as new requests to bolster existing monitoring (new servers, new apps, etc.) in addition to the migration efforts ?

This is one of the big things most companies don't factor in and then gripe about why is it taking so long ?  Unexpected growth can also be a huge factor !

Level 10

Time is something that varies per company for sure. This project has been off/on over the two years, portions of it handled by contractors and others by internal IT. I think any organization needs to consider the time required in keeping the lights on, but also should be practical as to where they invest in outside resources. Setting up the tools is often a one time thing, so in my opinion it makes sense to have someone do that for the organization so they can focus on learning and using the tools as they come online. If outside resources are not leveraged, I think expectations need to be set accordingly and that if internal resources aren't aligned to deploy these tools quickly the deployment will be very drawn out.

Level 14

I would have to agree with the slow and steady approach.  How are training issues being addressed?

Level 10

Slow and steady definitely wins the race.

Single pane of glass is the magic word.  What we run into is everyone wants their tool set to be the single pane of glass.

Level 10

Isn't this the truth? This is where we have to be very discerning in which solution we choose. Some of the vendor agnostic options have a ton to offer and in other environments a single vendor solution may be the way to go. Mileage varies greatly depending on commitment to that tool's success.

Level 10

We are slowly moving to a single pane of glass. For us there is also the argument that we don't want to have all our eggs in one basket.

About the Author
Shaun Neal is a Solution Architect with enterprise networking, security and mobility expertise. Additionally, Shaun is engaged in wireless product development, deployment, integration and go to market strategies. His experience aligns information technology and the organizational mission to create service orientated architecture design and see it through implementation.