Don’t Let the Network Get the Best of You: Take a Proactive Approach

In our last post, we discussed research conducted by Jim Frey from EMA on what is hampering organizations from effectively managing applications and services: poorly documented or controlled changes to applications and infrastructure; poor coordination among support teams; and lengthy troubleshooting and root-cause analysis. If you are experiencing these problems, here are the top three strategies, defined both by EMA and WildPackets, that will take you from reactive problem-solving to a proactive performance assurance angle.

1. Application Performance Is King.

As a network professional, you need to know what is happening at the network layer, but the value that is most important and easily perceived by your users and the guys who sign your paycheck is in the application and service layer – i.e., are you quickly delivering information and results over the network?

Having visibility into your applications is key if you want to quickly troubleshoot and solve issues when they arise. As a network engineer, request tools and develop processes that:

  • Protect the most important applications and services
  • Prioritize actions based on impact
  • Recognize new traffic contributors/aggravators and their sources before they become an issue
  • Find tools that have enterprise-wide visibility– visualize all applications on your network – and use
    them 24×7

You may need a mix of application-aware instrumentation, from SNMP, flow-based monitoring, packet-based monitoring,  and synthetic and passive agents to cover all areas of your network. WatchPoint 2.0 is an excellent solution since it combines SNMP, flow-based monitoring, and packet-based monitoring in one package to deliver a more comprehensive management solution and keep costs down.

2. Manage from Cradle to Grave.

There is value to be gained by moving the typical monitoring, baselining, and characterization approaches that are used during production earlier into the application rollout process. This will help you better understand what impact new applications will have on your system.

For example, take a VoIP project you may be starting/deploying. Before implementation, you need to establish a baseline of your current network performance, including numbers of users over time, peak usage times, average and peak latency measurements, etc. Networks have rhythms, so it’s best to assess network behavior over a long period of time, at least for several weeks and perhaps even for a month. Organizations can start this process by looking at their Internet connections, WAN links, WLAN environments, and data centers. We suggest you look into network analyzers to help you baseline.

And of course it’s important to continue to monitor and baseline your network after you roll out your new VoIP deployment so you can quickly see whether or not the impact it has is consistent with your predictions.

3. Take a Proactive Approach to Troubleshooting.

Most people consider troubleshooting to be a reactive approach, but troubleshooting can be proactive as well. Proactive troubleshooting implies that constant and comprehensive monitoring is in place so that when errors arise they can be solved immediately, before they become major problems.

It still surprises me how many enterprises invest in network monitoring and analysis solutions that are designed to operate 24×7, constantly analyzing the network for faults and providing up to the minute network statistics, only to use these solutions in an entirely reactive way – only after a network problem has been reported. You’ve already made the investment; why not leave that highly capable network monitoring and analysis solution running and let it provide ongoing analysis, 24×7, in the background on your system, always ready to alert you to issues on your network? In other words, use these solutions for proactive troubleshooting. For example, OmniEngines and Omnipliances have a whole series of Expert events running in the background, ranging from  layer 2 to layer 7 analyses. When an error occurs, you are automatically alerted and provided with information to isolate and solve the problem immediately.

A proactive approach is the key to successful network management. Proactive analysis includes baselining your network before new applications and technologies are deployed in order to see exactly how they affect your network and whether or not the impact is as predicted. Proactive analysis also includes leveraging the full value of the network analysis solutions that may already be sitting on your shelf. Don’t let them sit idle! Plug them in and use them 24×7 to provide ongoing Expert analysis and alerts the instant that trouble begins brewing. Taking this approach will make your end users forget all about you, and in network management that’s a good thing! Just make sure the guys who sign your paycheck don’t forget about you…

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