Faced with pressure to increase network capacity and performance while saving money, information technology managers have often been quite content to simply add more hardware as required.
However, this results in a disparate network that is hard to manage, imposing an extra burden on IT staff and adversely impacting business efficiency. Ad hoc network expansion may have coped in the past, but the need for end-to-end network visibility to assure compliance with global security and privacy mandates and to streamline business processes means that this approach is no longer acceptable.
The past few years have also seen an increased need for speed in deploying new enterprise-wide applications — a capability that is severely impeded when systems are disconnected from each other. It’s clear that chief information officers and their IT teams need to grab hold of their networks and manage and secure them as a unified whole.
Bringing order to chaos
As a first step to solving this problem, chief information officers and their teams have consolidated infrastructure and staffing into datacenters that provide applications, storage and expertise to remote and branch sites from centralized resource pools. However, without centralized management to automate deployment, configuration and oversight of datacenter and remote operations, consolidation inevitably falls short of its promise. The answer is efficient network management.
Instead of trying to handle environments individually, centralized tools ease the network management burden. Deploying a centralized management tool automates not only performance monitoring, but also change, configuration, policy and patch management throughout the network.
Network management tools are critical to understanding how the network operates today and how new applications or procedures will impact it in the future. It’s a way of future-proofing your IT network.
Because these tools are integrated across a heterogeneous environment, IT teams can model how the network will react to a new application and determine whether they will need to make adjustments, such as provisioning more bandwidth, changing the priority of delay-sensitive traffic on the network, or adding more processing power.
Doing more with less
More efficient network management also helps address the biggest challenge network managers face at the moment: how to do more with less. There will always be more projects and users for IT to support, but staffing and budgets will not increase to accommodate these demands. Managing basic infrastructure and integration is hard enough; then you add in privacy and security requirements, and that increases the network management burden. Some have tried to accommodate ad hoc networks by buying an overarching management platform, but that makes it very difficult to apply critical policies consistently across the enterprise and to create compliance audit trail. They also struggle because they don’t have the in-depth, in-house knowledge to manage some of the more management-intensive technologies, such as voice over Internet protocol. Also, there are so many applications fighting for the network that, if handled incorrectly, things start to break down.
Bringing everything under one umbrella gives an amazing amount of control and helps deliver quality of service for all your local and remote voice, video and data applications. You can set business appropriate thresholds to alert you to network problems before users are impacted. And you can use comprehensive metrics to do forecasting, modeling and capacity planning. All these things help save time and money and make your enterprise far more efficient.
A comprehensive network management platform gives visibility to the status of your resources, services and users. The savings that can undoubtedly be made can either be returned to the business, or used to fund more strategic value-added services from IT.
Mahmoud El-Ali, 3Com general manager, Middle East
The authors of Executive Insights have been invited by this magazine to offer their professional opinions and analysis to you, the reader. Executive Magazine does not endorse the analysis of Insight authors, nor should the Insights be interpreted as reflecting the views or opinions of Executive or its editorial staff.