Network Management From The Inside Out

Network Management From The Inside Out

By Susan Fogarty, Site Editor
08 Apr 2002, SearchNetworking

Network management has never been easy, but as enterprises become more complex and integrate more and more software systems, the prospect can seem overwhelming. Vendors are helping by introducing comprehensive software suites that take all aspects of IT into account, and by providing administrators with more intuitive tools to work with. SearchNetworking spoke with Andy Burger, vice president and general manager of network management at BMC Software, about his company's approach and how important network management is for business viability.

According to the feedback we get from SearchNetworking members, we've seen a definite increase in interest in network management over the past year. Have you noticed a similar trend?

Andy Burger: Absolutely. We've seen that not only in the past year, but over several years. BMC's focus historically has been in assuring business availability, and that starts with systems and the applications. Over the last year, and particularly in the year or two before that, with the explosion of the Internet and with increased focus on the end user driving business revenue, it became apparent that in order to rationally manage the entire IT infrastructure, you had to include a holistic view of the network, the systems infrastructure, the applications infrastructure, and all those things combined. It's not a case where you can look at these things alone.

What's making all of these parts of IT come together right now?

Andy Burger: What's important, and what's driving all of this, is more and more dependency on the Internet -- which of course is a dependency on the network -- and the delivery of application services, particularly revenue-generating application services across the network.

What's different about the way BMC approaches network management?

Andy Burger: We approach it starting with our strength in managing applications, databases, and systems and making sure they are available, running optimally, configured properly, and that we can measure their performance to provide and enforce service levels that are appropriate for today's business. So we start with a very broad and very deep suite of products to fulfill those kinds of needs. Then we're taking that and extending it to include network intelligence. What I mean by that is understanding the relationship of the entire IT infrastructure that's composed of these applications and systems, how they relate to the network and how they're configured over the network. We look at how traffic from each of these applications moves across the network, so that we can see the true relationship and better pinpoint how we can improve conditions.

Network managers who are now being put into a position where they have to manage and plan and behave as though they are part of the business -- because they are. What they do has direct impact on the ability to generate revenue.

What is the top consideration network managers should think about in terms of performance management?

Andy Burger: First of all, they need to have an accurate view of the assets that are out there -- of the topology and how it relates to one another -- down at least to Layer 2. Then, you need the ability to visualize the relationship of that topology with the applications that sit on that topology. I'm insisting here that network performance is important, but it is the relationship of the performance of the network with the performance of the applications that is critical.

Where do you most frequently see companies mismanaging their networks?

Andy Burger: The silo approach to managing the IT infrastructure is something that is keeping costs high and keeping the amount of time it takes to troubleshoot the real problems high. To manage IT in this way, you have specialists who focus on the network and you have specialists who focus on particular applications or other areas of infrastructure. By themselves, if you look at something as simple as availability, all the systems can be available, but they aren't necessarily delivering the appropriate service to the customer or end user. It's in the performance where you start to see transient behavior -- where the systems are available and the performance on any of the individual systems may also be acceptable. Again, it's the relationship of these systems to each other that's important and you have to look at the total picture. When you continue to only manage in the silo, you lose the benefit of the synergies of a collaborative approach.

How does application-centric network management affect how the administrator interacts with the network?

Andy Burger: We started out with something that's comfortable to them -- an accurate discovery of the network and then a 3-D visualization of the topology. Then we take that further and provide them with an analysis of the flows of traffic through that topology. Administrators have the ability to query from a number of different perspectives, whether it be by device, or by manufacturer or -- my favorite point of view -- by a particular application. You can say, "I want to see how my SAP transactions are flowing across the network," and identify congestion points that are restricting or impeding the business process.

How do you see network management changing enterprise IT in the coming years?

Andy Burger: Network managers who are now being put into a position where they have to manage and plan and behave as though they are part of the business -- because they are. What they do has direct impact on the ability to generate revenue. To not deliver adequate network performance means you're not delivering adequate business performance. As network managers improve their ability to understand their relationship to the business, they will be helping to sustain and improve the business itself, and able to show their contribution to the bottom line, rather than serving merely as a cost center.

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