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Vendor Voice - Managed Network Services
Managed services for enterprises

Every business should have an IT infrastructure that matches it's growth rate and keeps up with changes in technology to keep providing efficient service to the organization. A company can take the help of a Managed Network Services provider, which will help it offer its IT services better. by Dilip Kumar

In today's e-commerce enabled business environment, stable and high performance communication systems are of immense value. Especially to organizations that have presence in various cities worldwide. Every business organisation needs an IT infrastructure that can extend globally to all prospective customers, employees, suppliers, and partners. And the infrastructure should be able to offer innovative and efficient business processes.

Such demands are further aggravated by the spiralling complexity of information networks and the high cost of hiring and retaining specialised personnel. As a result of this aggravation, organisations find themselves gradually losing control of the direction and effectiveness of its infrastructures. Few organisations have the internal resources to ensure stable operation of such an e-business-ready network infrastructure. This situation creates a tremendous opportunity for SPs (Service Providers) to offer value-added MNS (Managed Network Services).

Managed Network Services
MNS typically include voice/data integration services, VPN (Virtual Private Network) services, network management, performance management, guaranteed service levels, fault management, change management, configuration management, security (PKI, Firewalls), and application outsourcing. No official figures are currently available for managed services in India, but I feel that the market will grow to about Rs. 100 crores within the next three years.

Rising demand
LANs, WANs, and the Internet continue to grow not only in reach and importance, but in complexity as well. New products appear every month, and old products don't always go away. Maintaining technical expertise in the midst of this richly ramifying profusion of network technologies is difficult. And recruiting, training, and retaining sufficient qualified personnel borders on the impossible.

Service providers can implement changes quickly and many organisations turn to MNS because service providers are quicker than IT staff to add new connections or upgrade bandwidth. Allowing a service provider to manage the network will also enable companies to focus on its core competency. This trend will steadily grow stronger as service providers offer more managed services, and as businesses see the advantages of using them.

Typical MNS provider services
Traditional systems usually fail because they are not designed to integrate customer information and network infrastructure. The result is that things like provisioning, performance management, and fault management are more difficult and time-consuming than they should be.

MNS describe a wide array of services in which the SP takes responsibility for more than just the transport function. Some
examples are:

Fault Management: The SP should be able to provide a robust and scalable proprietary architecture that is able to correlate and prioritise events from a multitude of best-breed management systems, and generate pertinent management information and events from which to respond. Put quite simply, this means faster response to a fault and faster turnaround time to restore a service to an environment—business as usual.

Configuration Management: Configuration management is a complicated, time-consuming task that is often neglected, especially in a large enterprise environment. Customised specialist tools are often required to retrieve configuration management information from devices deployed in an environment.

Change Management: It generally involves the detection of unauthorized changes to the network and device configurations and then either restoring the original configuration or applying for a change control.

Security Management: Some of the basic processes included in implementing site security are:

  • Secure network connection
  • Basic device access control
  • Device security management
  • Access audit trials

Performance Management: The customer can have online access to device metric graphs and detailed performance reports like the network service health and service level through a service portal. These service health reports compare the current network performance to its historical performance and evaluate the current network health based on the utilisation and errors detected. The reports can include information on the network's volume, volume trends, health analysis, utilisation, availability, and exceptions.

Threshold Management: Some of the threshold events may include:

  • Threshold event reporting
  • Threshold monitoring
  • Critical threshold event notification
  • Major threshold notification
  • Configurable thresholds

MNS delivery usually requires the creation of an NOC (Network Operations Center) with a core set of tools. Also relatively small number of experts to efficiently perform remote monitoring and management functions. A key factor in the profit equation for a managed network service is the NOC's operational efficiency. The more the tools and related training that are utilized across multiple customers, products and services, the more cost efficient becomes the NOC operation.

This can be partly attributed to reduced software acquisition and maintenance cost. But even more to the ability to assign NOC
personnel to tasks across customers and services as needed, rather than having narrowly trained specialist groups.

Several recent customer studies have determined that customers are influenced to outsource their network services primarily because outsourcing provides the following benefits:

  • Helps maintain the internal staff's focus on core business processes.
  • Enables fixed cost budgeting.
  • Provides instant on-line access to network status, performance and outstanding issues.
  • Allows proactive, interactive and reactive focus on the network.
  • Provides extensive and proactive monitoring of key performance indicators.
  • Enables accurate capacity budgeting allowing future resource requirements.
  • Provides 24x7 coverage.
  • Expands scope from regional to global.

The enterprise IT environment of any modern company is subject to continual change, and its reliability and performance have a direct impact on the company's overall success and profitability. The trend toward network integration services will certainly sustain because enterprises need to match the pace of technology innovation to stay above in competition. And in such a case an MNS provider may be a very viable option.

Dilip Kumar is President of Datacraft India

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