> Cover Story
Management should be proactive and pre-emptive
business dependence on IT infrastructure increases, network
management goes beyond troubleshooting and device configuration
top management wants to focus more on service alignment
and revenue generation, network management solution is the
only path to quick implementation and automation of services"
are two clear trends in Network Management: Efforts to Integrate
NM tools and move towards remote management, perhaps through
businesses get more consumer-centric and operations switch
to 24x7 mode, it becomes imperative to have a network with
99 percent plus uptime this is only possible with good network
The term Network Management means different things to different
people. It could be something as elementary as a network
engineer monitoring network traffic with a protocol analyser
or something more intensive, like a team of network consultants
using the best monitoring and reporting tools to keep an
eye on your network, round the clock.
Network administrators will tell you that managing a network
is no easy task, although there are good tools available
for automating the whole process. Consultants opine that
its crux is management at the application layer, now that
hardware has become far more reliable.
Network Management is not just about knowing whether your
network link is up or down. Users are now more intelligent
and CIOs are a lot more demanding. Network Management now
takes into account things like bandwidth utilisation, chokes,
and setting up different thresholds and alarms," opines
Kiran Bhagwanani, Founder Partner & General Manager,
HCL Comnet. "Today the practice is predictive/pre-emptive
management rather than fault finding or troubleshooting
after an event has occurred."
The complexity of today's networks makes management a sophisticated
affair. Enterprise network environments now involve multiple
media types, multiple protocols and different platforms.
They interconnect with public networks via ISPs or telecommunications
complex network environments means potential for connectivity
and performance problems in networks is high, and the source
of problems is often elusive," says Pawan Sharma, Country
Manager-Software Group and Developer Relations, IBM India.
For businesses, the dependence on IT has grown today and
it is no longer just IT-savvy companies who invest heavily
in IT infrastructure. Naturally, top management has high
expectations on IT, and IT staff need to ensure constant
top management expectation from IT is to focus more on business
service alignment and revenue-generating activities, a network
management solution is the only path to quick implementation
and automation of services," says Amit Chatterjee,
Country Manager-Software Solutions Organisation, Hewlett-Packard
India. "The management solution can proactively generate
alarms when business service degrades in performance due
to systems and networks."
Besides this, there are other reasons why companies find
it compelling to go in for a network management solution.
These have been summarised as:
Automation: Networks grow as businesses expand.
In a heterogeneous environment it becomes imperative
to automate network management.
With the globalisation of operations, businesses need
to make their networks available round the clock. Business
entities like suppliers, customers, and clients access
servers and databases via VPNs or Web interfaces.
Prioritisation: Prioritisation of network traffic
to handle mission critical application responses proactively
can only be achieved when network management solutions
are implemented within the network.
Dependence on IT: Business functions and processes
are becoming increasingly dependent on IT infrastructure.
Mission critical applications and databases (hosted
on servers) are the crown jewels for many businesses.
So if the network fails, businesses lose money and their
reputation, even customers/business. Proactive network
management can minimise failure/downtime.
Staff training: With the deployment of new technologies
on enterprise networks, it becomes necessary to retrain
skilled IT staff, which is in perennial shortage. A
network management solution can shorten the learning
cycle. If IT staff is overwhelmed with daily reactive
tasks, a network management solution helps.
As we said earlier, network management means different things
to different people. An administrator has to ensure optimal
performance even at peak times, when traffic is high. Network
management broadly involves monitoring network traffic and
devices; troubleshooting & diagnosis; systems configuration;
regulation of bandwidth & resources; testing systems
for tolerance; upgrading & maintaining networks; network
security, data protection; ensuring high-availability; design
and integration of new systems (such as security or storage
Some of the processes involved in network management include:
auto-polling of network devices and high-end workstations;
generating real-time graphical views of network topology
changes and traffic; data capture and report generation
(reports could indicate traffic composition, protocol and
application utilisation); correlating and management of
SNMP traps (more on protocols later).
In general, network management is a service that employs
a variety of tools, applications, and devices to assist
human network managers in monitoring
and maintaining networks.
There is a wide range of Network Management tools available
and one should carefully select and implement the right
ones. It is important to consider how well a set of tools
integrates with each other. When selecting management tools
also look carefully at the partnerships vendors have formed
with other management software vendors.
One could go in for enterprise-wide network management solutions
like HP-OpenView, CA Unicenter, IBM Tivoli, CiscoWorks and
others. These solutions handle a range of functions broadly
classified under Security, Storage and Enterprise Management.
They have several modules that handle specific functions
like: availability management, performance management, service
level management, data management, network/systems management;
storage management, console management, device management,
event management, asset management etc.
Then there are highly specialised tools like protocol analysers,
port scanners, security scanners, device monitoring/configuration
tools, network discovery & mapping software; network
monitoring and alerting tools; risk/vulnerability assessment
tools (with auditing/reporting) etc. Examples of such tools
are Sniffer (Network Associates), Cheops-ng, Cybercop (Network
Associates), Nesus, Concorde, WhatsUp (IP Switch).
Network Administrators may also use hardware devices such
as probes and network analysers. These are mainly used for
checking cable faults, for network trending and frame capture.
Notable examples of hardware-based analysers are Network
General Sniffer, HP Internet Advisor, Fluke LANMeter, and
Network analysers are also of the software variety and some
examples are: Chevin Personal Protocol Analyser, Cinco's
NetXRay, EtherPeek and Novell's LANalyzer.
PROTOCOLS & STANDARDS
Network management software and tools rely heavily on management
protocols and standards. A Network Administrator must be
well-versed with popular protocols like Simple Network Management
Protocol (SNMP) and Common Management Information Protocol
There is a wide spectrum of applications for network management
and so integration becomes crucial. SNMP helps integrate
all the management tools by sending SNMP traps between them
so that all events are collected in one place.
There have been efforts towards creating common standards
through Policy Based Networking. A number of companies have
announced tools that support the specification and deployment
of policies. Much of this work is focused on developing
policies for quality of service management within networks.
The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and Distributed
Management Task Force (DMTF) is actively working on standards
related to this area.
The DMTF's Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) is a set
of management and Internet standard technologies aimed at
unifying the management of enterprise computing environments.
WBEM provides the ability for the industry to deliver a
well-integrated set of standards-based management tools
by leveraging emerging Web technologies. In other words,
these standards will enable cross-platform and cross-application
access to system information from any management console
using Web technologies.
In the same vein, IETF's Policy Framework Working Group
is working on an overarching management framework. Data
models, common access methods and groupings have been created.
The protocols and standards discussed above are also direct
indicators of emerging trends in Network Management. Two
clear trends can be observed firstly there are efforts towards
integration of network management tools and secondly, everyone
is considering remote management, perhaps through the Web.
Here are some emerging trends:
Management Services Providers: This new breed
of service providers is making heavy investments in
Network Operations Centres (NOC). With state-of-the
art equipment and teams of highly skilled technicians,
MSPs will manage an organisation's network remotely,
round the clock. The MSP approach can free organisations
from the hassles of investing in new network infrastructure
every few months, and from employing skilled IT staff,
which is itself in short supply. In India, HCL Comnet,
Bangalore Labs, WiproNet and Convergent Communications
have NOCs and offer Managed Services. Other ISPs will
soon offer such services.
Integration: Initiatives and standards from IETF and
DMTF will bring about better integration between network
management products. Tighter integration will result
in improved user interfaces/common views for managing
several products. But later, we may also see integration
at the database level, wherein management data from
disparate resources is intelligently combined.
Management portals: xSPs will offer value-added services
like network management via customised portals. Through
these portals IT staff will have customised views of
network data by pulling together displays from disparate
Brian Pereira can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
10 Rules for Network Management
1. Knowledge of network - to be able to discover network
elements quickly and efficiently track new elements that
are periodically introduced on the network.
2. Capacity planning - to meet the increasing demands of
business from IT infrastructure. Planning to provision capacity
before it expires requires proactive tool based solutions.
3. SLA monitoring - being able to monitor the service levels
within a network so that performance of various elements
within the network can be managed.
4. The-user-knows-first - reactive management of networks
and isolating problems before they impact the end users,
is a key issue to be addressed. Only then is management
5. Dynamic resource allocation - on the fly allocation of
resources to meet fluctuations in business with IT infrastructure
needs prioritising the network, application and traffic
on a dynamic basis. This is difficult but crucial in the
6. Heterogeneity breeds complexity - rapidly growing network
with heterogeneous platforms creates issues of interoperability
and connectivity. Deploying a solution to manage this is
a big challenge.
7. Event correlation - if every event generates an alarm,
depending on implementation, there could be situations where
thousands of alarms are generated within a very short time
span. It is therefore important to be able to correlate
all alarms to certain IS Services going down, or certain
capacity augmentation efforts. So the biggest challenge
is to be able to correctly correlate and generate business
views for events as they occur.
8. Determining the bottlenecks - simple implementation and
fast discovery of network elements will lead to quicker
isolation of bottlenecks as and when service levels are
violated. Network managers must have the ability to quickly
isolate a bottleneck, take remedial action and contain a
potential disaster or downtime on a business critical network.
9. Manage bandwidth more effectively - the exponential growth
of data traffic has contributed significantly to current
loads on corporate and service provider networks. With voice
and video applications driving network demand, bandwidth
requirements continue to grow at a rapid rate. Meanwhile,
mission-critical traffic must battle against both high frequency
& high-bandwidth competitors, since the IP network itself
provides nothing but best-effort service to all traffic
10. Quick problem diagnosis - data trending, data log analysis
and data collection is a laborious, time consuming &
repetitive work. Easy data collection and trend analysis
through out-of-the-box reporting will help solve this issue
for network managers.
Courtesy: Hewlett-Packard India Ltd.