the years, Network Management has become increasingly
complex in business environments. Heterogeneous networks
are difficult to manage and network administrators are
confronted with problems like network scalability, application
updates, security breaches, growing storage requirements
and so on. In an e-mail interview Network Magazine caught
up with Bill Ahlstrom, Director Engineering, Cisco Systems,
to find out if Network Management will ease up in future.
by Brian Pereira
are the keys challenges that system administrators face
today with regard to Network Management? What kinds
of technology/products are emerging to address these
The key problems are constraining costs of network operations,
including staff growth, and the lack of appropriately
skilled staff to manage network operations centers.
Networks are typically growing faster than are operations
staffs; operations staffs are typically not able to
hire, train, and keep the professional staff needed
to monitor, manage, and troubleshoot increasingly complex
networks based on rapidly evolving technologies like
Voice over IP, which is exploding. Relatively few traditional
voice organizations have IP expertise; and relatively
few data network operations have voice expertise.
Network Operations Centers (NOCs) thus have a mix of
staff skill levelsvery low skilled, recently entered
staff (who may be freshers), and a small number of very
highly skilled experts.
Network monitoring and management applications therefore
must accommodate all skill levels, from the very unskilled
to the expert. So, for example, Command Line Interface
(CLI) based troubleshooting is suitable for the expert,
but not for the novice. So a graphical representation
of a device and menu-driven features make it possible
for the novice to do the same thing the expert would
do via CLI.
Tools also increasingly automate routine functions (such
as distributing software updates to hundreds or even
thousands of routers or switches), and provide templates
or 'wizards' to guide the unskilled operator in otherwise
very complex operations. In other cases, applications
may connect automatically to a central database at a
vendor site, to automatically retrieve updates, which
then allow the application to 'advise' the operator
what to do in a given situationsuch as retrieve
hardware requirements for a new software version, and
then automatically match those requirements to an automatically
retrieved inventory of network equipment, and generate
a report that lists devices which cannot accept the
new software, and why.
What are the new trends in Network Management?
Effective infrastructure management may well be the
single most important differentiator for success among
enterprises and service providers.
Traditionally network management requirements of different
types of enterprises and service providers have been
unique to each market segment and corporate culture.
However, a number of forces are creating more common
ground among these environments like interdependencies
between enterprises and service. Recognizing these interdependencies
and managing them proactively is the right track to
take for IT organizations seeking to gain control of
its infrastructure investments and service commitments.
Also, today customers are increasingly looking for end-to-end
service-level commitments rather than 'islands' of guarantees.
Saying the above does not mean that the management model
for enterprises and service providers will entirely
converge. There will remain significant business and
operational differences. For example, service providers
need to create directly billable services, while enterprises
remain largely concerned with managing costs and fulfilling
corporate business. The common model emerging between
service providers and enterprise IT departments contains
the following key ingredients:
A consistently service-oriented approach, wherein
service providers and enterprise IT define their roles
in terms of delivering measurable, accountable business
Interdependencies across multiple sources, where end
solutions become a mixture of internally and externally
Increasing cost sensitivity, which fosters thinking
more in terms of business value and less in terms
Another emerging trend is Security Management. Traditionally,
security has been relatively isolated from other management
disciplines and this condition is beginning to change
as IT organizations find more effective ways to integrate
security with fault, performance, configuration, inventory/asset,
and other disciplines. Such integration will enable
new operational efficiencies through common policies
across multiple disciplines.
Effective management strategies take a holistic approach
to addressing both business and operational requirements.
The place to begin with is an internal assessment and
audit to determine the business requirements that are
driving your management strategy and what management
functionality is needed at a technology level. When
selecting management solutions, IT management should
recognize that a comprehensive management strategy should
address all, or at least most, of the following disciplines:
Fault/availability/root cause management
Service-level and business-impact management
Help desk and customer support
For the effective implementation of management solutions,
two themes persist across all market sectors. One is
careful planning with an eye to market realities, business
objectives, and management processes. The second is
the need to invest in open, reliable management and
infrastructure solutions that can promote shared accountability
and control for critical business services, just as
they can enable service diversification.
Effective management has become a competitive edge for
all businesses in all markets and might, in fact, become
the single most important differentiator for growing
a business smartly and profitably.
For enterprises, what are the limitations of using
traditional Network Management software? What tools/middleware
is available to address such limitations?
Most enterprises have an idiosyncratic Present Method
of Operation (PMO) that reflects products they have
purchased and implemented over time in response to changing
technologies, network applications, and problems. Few
enterprise PMOs are driven by architecture or technical
Most enterprises have a Manager of Managers (MOM) such
as OpenView, which provides a variety of services for
multi-vendor hardware, plus function specific applications,
such as performance monitoring or billing and accounting,
as well as vendor- or technology-specific applications,
such as CiscoWorks.
Standards such as WBEM (Web-Based Enterprise Management)
and CIM (Common Interface Model) are gradually emerging
and making it easier to inter-operate and integrate
these tools. CiscoWorks, for example, provides a Network
Management Integration Module for its applications to
integrate easily with other Web-based applications,
including OpenView. Another example is the Data Extraction
Engine which allows CiscoWorks applications to easily
share data they have with other management applications.
Besides CiscoWorks, does Cisco offer anything new for
Network Management? Is CiscoWorks limited only to Cisco
CiscoWorks is a brand and a family of products, not
a product. We are regularly releasing new products in
the CiscoWorks family, as well as new versions of previously
released products. We recently announced new applications
like Wireless Management application and the IP Telephony
Brian Pereira can be reached at email@example.com