For decades, the data center had also represented the network center, functioning as the core hub for applications, routing, firewalls, processing, and more.

Now, the enterprise is highly reliant upon distributed workplaces, cloud-based resources, and third-party-operated networks. In the wake of this shift, a modern network has emerged, one that’s more diverse, complex, and dynamic than anything teams had to manage before.

Relying on legacy tools and approaches, it has become increasingly difficult for IT and network operations teams to address such critical imperatives as mitigating disruptions, improving performance, and ensuring optimal resource utilization. This post looks at three steps for combatting these challenges.

#1. Establish Complete Coverage, Including Software-Defined, Cloud, and ISP Networks

Today, teams need to minimize the number of different tools they run and manage, leveraging a single solution that enables unified monitoring. Today, this requires a platform that delivers insights into three key areas:

  • Software-defined data centers (SDDCs). The SDDC is characterized by dynamic, software-driven architectures that abstract and virtualize networking resources. This abstraction introduces new layers of complexity. It is only with comprehensive visibility of all these layers that these teams can track resource deployments, detect abnormal performance, optimize workloads, and proactively address performance and capacity needs.
  • ISP and cloud networks. Increasingly, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) is being replaced by unpredictable transports, such as Internet broadband connections. This introduces a higher risk of latency and routing issues, and makes it more difficult to hold internet service providers (ISPs) and cloud service providers (CSPs) accountable for the levels of service they provide. That’s why comprehensive network visibility is more important than ever.
  • Digital experience. Business-critical applications are not served or used in a single location anymore. As a result, network teams need to zero in on the digital experience of any user, no matter which application they run, where they’re based, or what network they use. It is only with full visibility across all network environments that they can ensure users have the best possible experience with business-critical applications, wherever they’re hosted.

#2. Tame the Complexity of Modern Software-Defined Networks

To manage SD-WAN effectively and establish a reliable and efficient environment, teams need to address the following requirements:

  • Unified observability across vendors and technologies. Many organizations are adopting SD-WAN technologies from several different vendors. Each vendor solution typically has its proprietary protocols, management interfaces, and feature sets, making it challenging to achieve seamless interoperability and consistent network operations. To reduce silos, establish unified workflows, and ensure robust infrastructure monitoring, teams need holistic network observability that enables the management of technologies from multiple SD-WAN vendors.
  • Streamlined operational workflows. Traditional network management has always been highly manual in nature, requiring skilled engineers who can perform management tasks using a command line interface or proprietary tools. To effectively manage SD-WAN, front-line teams need correlated intelligence and effective baselines, so they can distinguish between optimal and suboptimal performance, without systematically escalating to a specialist or an architect.
  • Unbiased deployment validation. SD-WAN deployment validation must involve testing and monitoring to ensure that the infrastructure meets the expected criteria for end-user satisfaction. This includes evaluating application response times, latency, and overall network performance under various conditions. By closely examining the end-user experience during validation, teams can confirm that the SD-WAN effectively prioritizes and delivers critical applications.

#3. Maximize Operational Consistency

When it comes to tooling, three practices are at the core of consistent and effective network management:

  • Establish a single source of truth. Large enterprises often have disparate, siloed technology stacks composed of various technologies from a range of vendors. Teams must establish a “single source of truth,” maintaining a centralized and authoritative repository of network-related data and information. Standardizing on a single network management platform allows for better collaboration and knowledge sharing among different teams.
  • Track configuration changes. To meet their organization’s agility demands, teams must consistently make changes to their networks. However, it’s vital for groups to ensure these changes don’t cause disruptions. That’s why teams need automated configuration management and pre- and post-change validation of network delivery.
  • Streamline standard operating procedures. Across IT organizations, automation levels have remained low. That’s because network teams lack tools that enable them to standardize on the same workflows and processes while gaining coverage of new areas, such as connectivity paths to the cloud, SaaS, enterprise sites, and campus or branch Wi-Fi networks. To combat this problem, teams must consolidate network management tools and establish unified administrative practices.

Conclusion: Pulling it All Together

Today’s IT and network operations teams are facing a technological inflection point. Networks everywhere are being re-architected to support cloud migrations, software-defined technologies, and evolving business demands. Traditional monitoring solutions, which have been in use for years, were not designed for the transient, dynamic nature of modern environments and services.

To be successful, today’s teams need to integrate network monitoring with user experience monitoring. By establishing unified network observability, network teams will be positioned to optimize service levels, availability, and resource utilization. In the process, they’ll become better partners to the business in enabling accelerated digital transformation.

To learn more about best practices for accelerating network transformations, access our in-depth white papers for these topics.