Rethinking your “game plan” for network monitoring
by March 15, 2019

Filed under: Cloud Computing, Networking Technology, Performance Monitoring

Enterprise IT and network ops teams may not appear to have much in common with the names on your NCAA March Madness bracket. But in both arenas, teams need to be masters of strategy, cooperation, and fast thinking in order to succeed.

That’s because just like college basketball, network monitoring and management requires having both a strong offense and defense. However, keeping enterprise networks up and running is hardly “just a game,” as the costs of poor network performance can have a debilitating impact on a brand’s bottomline, while in the NCAA, “there’s always next year,” unless your star forward is bound for the NBA.

With the rate of change in the enterprise networking space moving at a breakneck pace, IT and ops teams are constantly mapping out new strategies to stay ahead of issues before they impact end users. IT teams across the enterprise space are retiring legacy, data-center-centric networks for architectures that leverage the cloud and direct internet access (DIA) — often in a number of configurations or coupled with SD-WAN — that’s making the tools they used to use to monitor their networks increasingly useless.

Network performance monitoring that changes the game

Today, as options for cloud networking have grown alongside booming SaaS adoption, enterprise IT has no choice but to explore more agile network models to support an array of remote offices and workers.

What makes DIA and SD-WAN configurations so appealing is that the internet is ubiquitous: Every remote office already partners with an ISP that can support app delivery paths over the internet, making this strategy relatively simple to deploy alongside a VPN.

But once deployed, will these tools actually deliver the cost and labor savings that CIOs crave, or simply replace old IT headaches with new ones?

With SD-WAN, edge routers at each remote location communicate with a central controller that pools routing policies to establish a “global standard” for routing across the entire WAN. This gives IT a high-level visual of network performance between branch offices, but fails to give IT teams everything they need for performance.

For instance, with SD-WAN, traffic may travel along dedicated VPN tunnels that connect remote users and offices. All of the external characteristics of the app’s delivery path — that is, the hops between DNS servers and other touch points along the public internet — are invisible to the IT team managing the network through the controller in this scenario. Rather, all teams can usually glean is a binary “yes/no” response from the SD-WAN controller as to whether an app was actually delivered between edge routers.

To that end, the SD-WAN controller can generally only see right up to the LAN firewalls at each remote office, robbing centralized IT of a “local perspective” into issues that may be impacting end users beyond the WAN.

Leveraging network performance monitoring for a “full-court press”

IT needs tools that can see all the hops that apps travel on their route between branch offices as well as insight into the local performance to really win the network management “game.” While SD-WAN and DIA allow teams to retire legacy hardware and, in theory, keep their teams connected as long as networks are performant, they rob IT and ops team of necessary visibility to score big wins.

Without that additional layer of insight, it’s impossible for network management teams to effectively map out a game plan to maintain performance, let alone address issues after they’ve impacted end users. It’s like showing up to the court with less than 5 players on game day: You simply can’t cover the whole court without all players watching the corners.

To learn more about what a comprehensive network monitoring solution should deliver, read our latest whitepaper, “Three Essential Pillars of Comprehensive Network Performance Monitoring.”