Network Management: What's Ahead

We highlight five trends that will drive your network management strategy next year.

by Kenneth Klapproth

The demands on network managers have never been greater. From increasing traffic to tighter budgets and a mantra of doing more with less, it's been a tough year. To help you in planning your projects for 2010, I offer the following five trends that will drive what's important in managing a busier-than-ever network.

1. Measuring results, not variables

In 2009, IT used NetFlow to understand network traffic; in the year ahead, IT will move to use service modeling to track business service delivery.

Although NetFlow technology captures a fine granularity of data to applications consuming bandwidth, the volume of data it generates is overwhelming and tough to decipher. A service model that includes all the applications, network services, network devices, and servers utilized in its delivery gives a more concise -- and more easily monitored -- approach for insight to service delivery and business impact.

2. Understanding that less is less in network-event management

This year, event post-processing helped enterprises reduce duplicate or sympathetic events. Next year, we need to go further, using baselines or dynamic thresholds to prevent event notification during "normal" peaks.

Events -- and their associated alerts -- effectively prompt network managers to attend to specific items. Great improvements have been made in event-processing technology to remove unwarranted alerts reducing IT distractions, but periods of peak utilization can still cause unnecessary event storms. Next year, expect to see dynamic threshold technology grow in popularity to monitor and baseline typical network utilization, providing an adaptable "normal" and eliminating alerts at peak times.

3. The "greening" of IT

This year, IT focused on hardware solutions (such as EnergySTAR LCD monitors and virtualization) to reduce energy consumption. It's a good start. Next year, end-user awareness will continue to grow and IT will pay increasing attention to shutting down client devices.

The best technology to reduce power consumption is the power switch, but most are on client devices beyond the control of central IT. With network monitoring software gathering statistics and giving visibility to historical power consumption trends of all connected end points, network managers can build awareness around the actual impact users are having on corporate power consumption and the environment.

4. Champagne network management on a beer budget

In 2009, single-purpose, downloadable tools helped IT minimize CAPEX that unknowingly raised OPEX. Now IT must complete the picture: it must employ high-end (but still affordable) functionality to reduce OPEX.

Network managers have come to appreciate -- and expect -- the champagne of high-end, enterprise-class functionality from their network management solutions. However, economic conditions have necessitated a beer budget, and that's not likely to change significantly in 2010. Single-purpose, downloadable utilities may require little upfront investment but they require expensive manual processes to operate.

5. The cloud comes inside

This year, the buzz was clearly about cloud computing. Now IT has to make sure that private, corporate clouds are sized "just right."

Network-delivered services offer versatility and economy to corporations large and small, but hosting strategic applications and sensitive data out on the Internet is beyond many organizations' risk tolerance. With an eye towards optimum service delivery, networks are foundational to corporate clouds that offer operational efficiency as well as security.

Kenneth Klapproth is vice president of marketing at Entuity, a developer of network management software. You can reach the author at kenneth.klapproth@entuity.com