How are Enterprises Simplifying Network Management

By: Andrew Riddell, Managing Director at Allied Telesis

Andrew Riddell

As an enterprise network grows larger, so does its IT team’s worries. Enterprises are on a constant look-out for a secure, reliable, flexible, expandable and cost-effective network. To ensure business productivity and continuity, factors like server, network availability and networking infrastructure are essential components for enterprise operations.
Protecting business assets have become a serious concern for organizations. As the organization expands, a bigger number of devices and applications are added to the network. This can increase the risk of errors and network outages, and can even bring the network down. Moreover, the enterprise network can be affected by security issues as the sheer number of devices can increase the risk of data breaches. Currently, most enterprises want their networks to be more dynamic than in was in the past few years. Traditional network security tools and practices are simply no longer enough to ensure protection.
Though enterprises face many challenges in maintaining their network, the area of network management is not really appreciated or understood by a majority of an organization’s staff or management. In addition, network failures affect enterprises as they are very expensive to operate and can result in crucial damage. Besides, scalability and performance are directly dependent on the organizations network.
Organizations can benefit from a network management framework, which can solve some of the biggest problems that enterprise networks face today. Network management framework solutions take a unique approach of embedding the management framework into the network itself, and as a result, the framework can address most of the challenges.

Top 3 network management challenges:

Flexibility vs. Security

The management has to ensure that network security adapts to keep up with the new ways in which the user and back-end systems work. Employees are used to updating to the attest technologies and applications on their personal computing devices and hand held devices. With these developments, user-needs and business-needs add a new dimension of requirements to the list of features that a network must support. So, enterprise network must now be a more open platform where users can take advantage of both technology and the enterprise network. This flexibility in end-point devices and applications brings security risks. Contemporary operating systems and data traffic allow the possibility of unique forms of viruses and cyber-attacks.

Cost vs. Capability

There are new applications and functions that converge into the network, which are actually driving requirements for new capabilities. Enterprises usually look for networks which are capable of handling the increasing number of functions within the network infrastructure. However, enhancing the network to keep pace with new capabilities is an expensive affair.
For example: New end-point devices such as Wireless APs, VoIP phones and surveillance cameras that work on high performance applications require an enhanced network bandwidth. To increase its bandwidth, new hardware devices need to be placed within the network infrastructure, which will result in high costs.

Currently, most industries are trying to reduce the total cost of ownership of network infrastructure. As a result, IT leaders are finding innovative answers to provide and maintain an increasingly capable network on a static and keep the budget low.

Reliability vs. Growth

Networks are growing not just in complexity but also in size. As more and more functions converge on data networks, the number of devices attached to the network grows, and therefore, the number of switching and routing nodes in the network must also grow accordingly. As the network grows, there are higher chances of device failures.

How are Enterprises Simplifying Network Management Issues?

To address the above problems, enterprises can embed a management framework into the network itself. A management framework can simplify and even automate some of the most challenging and time consuming tasks in network management. The management framework enables the network to be managed as a single unit by creating a cooperative management plane that unifies the operation of the individual network switches.
A network management framework can encounter the challenges in the following ways:

Efficient configuration change management

Responding to new security requirements or adding new capabilities, invariably requires changing the configurations on multiple network nodes. Most often, changes are required at the edge of the network – the largest set of nodes. Configuration changes need to be performed quickly, accurately and consistently. To achieve the consistency, the network nodes backup their configuration automatically to a central device at a configurable time interval. Enterprises can easily get an automated backup without external servers or special commands. The knowledge of how to perform backup is embedded into the network switches by default, and they will simply just do it.

Automated recovery of failed units

Network management frameworks can ease the task of enterprises by replacing switches in network-failure conditions. Enterprises can simply attach a replacement unit to the network, wherein the management framework will take care of loading the right software version and configuration on to it. This is truly a ‘plug and play’ swap-out. The replacement switch does not need any preparation prior to being connected to the network.

This level of unit replacement automation shifts the balance between growth and reliability. Downtime in remote locations is reduced and there’s no requirement to deploy more skilled IT staff. The task of plugging in the replacement unit can be carried out by people available at the remote site who need not be IT specialists.

Automatic provisioning of new units

If the network is being expanded at a remote location, the new switches can simply be shipped directly to that location. Distant locations can expand their network without visits by skilled operators. The cost of network growth is reduced, that too without adding risk.

Automated software upgrade

Deploying new software across the network in order to provide new functionality has typically been a time-consuming task, and one that involves significant downtime and potential error. Network management framework automates the process of upgrading software across a network. The new software images for the network nodes simply need to be collected together in a location.

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