The role of the network has certainly changed over the past couple of decades. Prior to being an analyst, I held a number of IT roles and the network then was considered the “plumbing” or the “pipes” of a business. The CIO was focused on applications or desktop stuff and couldn’t really give two hoots about the network.
Today the environment is quite different, or at least it should be. We’ve left the era of client server computing in the dust and mobile and cloud are network centric compute models. This means the network has shifted from being the plumbing to being maybe the most strategic asset a company has. A good network means a good experience for mobile and cloud based applications. A poor performing network means unhappy users. Despite the rise in network value and the increased dependence on the network, there are a number of issues that continue to plague network managers.
Troubleshooting network problems
This is an area of extreme pain for network managers today. My research shows that 73% of problems are actually identified by the end users calling in and not by the IT department. Additionally, 90% of the time taken to resolve problems is just finding where the problem is. Part of the problem is the ad hoc, box by box management methodology that IT departments utilize today. Legacy management tools are a bigger problem though. Many of these weren’t really designed for this era of IT and do not provide the necessary levels of visibility required to properly troubleshoot networks.
Enforcing appropriate use of the network
Streaming and video conferencing currently accounts for well over half of network traffic today. Some of these are very hard to enforce as the consumer application landscape is evolving very quickly and many of them use standard web ports making them hard to identify and enforce. The WAN is particularly susceptible, as the bandwidth tends to be lower than over the LAN. Better user level visibility is required to identify what kind of traffic is crossing the WAN and where it is coming from to enforce network policies more efficiently. Policy based traffic shaping can be used to help automate the enforcement of network usage as well.
Ensure network resources are available for key applications
Ensuring mission critical applications are always performing optimally over a WAN can be a challenge for network managers. However, it’s critical that the resources be available at all times to ensure maximum productivity. ZK Research studies have shown that, on average, companies lose about 14% productivity just from poor performance due to network problems. Isolating the traffic from key applications and ensuring they are prioritized over all other traffic needs to be a top priority today.
Reducing WAN spend
Every business leader wants to cut the costs of running the business. I believe that lowering the cost of running a network by reducing bandwidth is a bad move by IT leaders. Bandwidth costs are a sizeable chunk of network TCO but people costs are about 50% the cost of running a WAN. Automating processes to cut those people will have a bigger impact on reducing costs and not put the business at risk.
Supporting critical IT projects
Being a former network manager, I can tell you from personal experience that the impact to the network is rarely a consideration for large IT projects until there’s a problem with the network. This means the network changes are often reactive to try and not hold up those larger projects. Given the industry is shifting to a network centric compute model, it’s important to consider the impact to the network at the onset of the project.
There are other challenges network managers face but those are just the top five. Finding a way to resolve these issues should have a big impact on the operational efficiency of the network operations teams but also improve overall user experience. Contact an Exinda expert to learn more about solving your biggest networking problems and learn more about Exinda’s Network Orchestrator.