Not long ago, a company asked me to review their IT documentation while they were getting ready for an audit.
The systems, hardware, and software documentation was in order, but the network was a jumble of documents that failed to connect the dots. Instead, the story revealed by network documentation about the network was that many changes were quickly made to accommodate another acquired enterprise and to add a large number of new users in various places.
All too often, companies find themselves in this situation. They are subject to change rapidly, and it is difficult to constantly update network documentation. Even more worrying is the inability to develop a clear network roadmap that addresses future network needs, scalability, and security.
How can you develop an effective network roadmap while keeping up with workloads? Proceed step by step. Building a network roadmap is an exciting strategic exercise, but first an assessment and understanding of the existing underlying network must be undertaken.
There are many steps in this process. Implementing these steps while simultaneously managing daily network health and operations can be daunting.
For this reason, it is useful to divide the construction of a network roadmap into a series of methodological steps, addressing each step separately.
Step 1: Revisit performance objectives and workload
What are the network performance goals that must be achieved every day for business? Where did they meet and where did they fail? Are the goals of your network diverse? For example, an organization may have an internal network for employees and an external telemedicine network for doctors and patients. Each will likely have different goals in performance, productivity, and quality of service (QoS).
By reviewing performance metrics and trends, you can learn about network strengths and weaknesses as you build your roadmap.
Step 2: Automate documentation
The future of the network is automation.
This should start with what is likely to be the Achilles heel of most networks: documentation.
Most network documentation is still largely manual and outdated. Network administrators often find themselves working like CAD engineers, developing network diagrams from scratch – if their day-to-day work allows them time to do so.
One solution is automated network authentication. There are tools on the market that will scan your network and produce its own network diagrams, which you can modify or add notes to as needed.
Step 3: Plan the direction of network monitoring
Everyone wants to move to 5G, boost Wi-Fi, support video, voice and data payloads on demand and a plethora of devices and platforms, but how do you monitor networks at this level of sophistication?
The proposed path is network automation, which goes from manual network monitoring to automated monitoring to network monitoring.
Today, companies use a combination of manual and automated monitoring. Network professionals check dashboards and search for problem areas. There is also software monitoring and automation software that scans network entry points for vulnerabilities and security breaches, provides traceability, and performs automated functions such as updating software to the latest versions across all devices on the network. Some of these programs monitor edge Internet of Things (Internet of Things) technologies, issuing alerts when network anomalies or anomalies are detected.
Unfortunately, when network problems are found, network professionals must dig into them and identify the root causes so that they can be resolved. This is where the next generation of network monitoring – monitoring capability – comes in.
Step 4: Determine your network automation path
If automation is the path of network evolution, what most companies want is to automate more elements of monitoring and progress to the network monitoring stage, where artificial intelligence (AI) can tell you not only that something is wrong, but Why it’s wrong. Using monitoring software, which uses machine learning (ML) to learn the dynamics of your network infrastructure so that it has context for troubleshooting, can speed times to resolve a problem because monitoring software not only issues alerts – it also tells you Why Alerts may occur based on what you know and what you’ve observed. This reduces the time for manual root cause analysis.
The monitoring feature uses network logs to determine when certain events associated with a problem occurred, who or what caused the problem, etc. It tracks metrics such as how much memory or bandwidth was used by a given network request – and it tracks events as they travel from one network node to the next.
AI-based monitoring can propagate through a large number of network alerts, isolating only important alerts, as it understands the operational infrastructure of the network. It can suggest the root causes of what is wrong. This is what speeds up solution time for network professionals and is the future of network automation.
Step Five: Decide What’s Next
If most companies realize that the possibility of full network monitoring and automation is the future of network monitoring, then the key to building a network roadmap will fill in all the points between where the network is now and the end point of what would be the total network monitoring.
It also means that the most likely steps to be taken are incremental advances in automation and phased additions of what will likely be significant funding required for network automation tools.
In all cases, full observability and automation will likely be tested incrementally to build confidence in the technology, and identify points of intervention for IT personnel in newly automated network operations.
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