The pace of change for the technologies today’s enterprises rely on to carry out their missions is occurring at breakneck speed. So fast, in fact, that many organizations are finding that their technology estate has become more complex than their IT operations monitoring and management (ITOM) teams can handle. In a recent survey, technology analyst firm Forrester found that only 12% of companies have transitioned to modern monitoring tools, and that 37% rely exclusively on legacy tools.
In a world of cloud, mobility, and software-defined everything, that is disappointing news, and it speaks to a major challenge for those responsible for network operations (NetOps). How can ITOM teams respond and break the digital deadlock that results from using yesterday’s tools to manage today’s technologies? Let’s take a step back and understand the NetOps landscape, then outline a plan for aligning the tools and processes needed to bring NetOps into the state of the art.
What is NetOps?
Simply put, NetOps is the operation framework organizations use to design, build, operate, and maintain their IT infrastructure. According to Gartner there are two approaches to NetOps, defined by the technologies underpinning the configuration and management of the enterprise. NetOps 1.0 is primarily comprised of traditional hardware, software, and ITOM tools. It’s a lot of switches, routers, servers, cables, workstations, and the software that ties it all together. It is also characterized by the plethora of tools used to manage the disparate parts and make sure everything is working as it should.
NetOps 2.0 is distinguished by modern technologies like the cloud, virtual machines, the Internet of Things, mobile systems, SaaS applications, and software-defined everything. And while NetOps 2.0 also encompasses the legacies of NetOps 1.0, it requires ITOM tools that have the ability to see across the entire infrastructure and consolidate all the monitoring and management functions on a single platform. Without those modern tools, engineered to support the needs of the modern enterprise, your IT operations will be limited by the constraints of the past.
NetOps, Data, and Best Practices
While NetOps is primarily the process for planning, building, operating, and maintaining the IT estate, it must also support the ambitions of the organization and the goals of the teams that work toward achieving those objectives. At its most basic level, that means ensuring the systems customers and users rely on are available and reliable when needed. It’s about keeping the lights on, fixing things that break, and making the tweaks that make things work as well as possible.
As important as those things are, there’s also a higher–level purpose for NetOps that involves enabling the enterprise to grow in sophistication and capability; supporting the evolution toward things like automation and analytics; and maintaining the agility needed to respond to changing circumstances. Organizations with a strong technology culture that operate excellent NetOps programs are the ones who, when a pandemic strikes, are able to quickly pivot from an 80% on-site work model to an 80% remote work model with minimal disruptions.
Such seismic shifts can strain resources and expose weaknesses in the enterprise when operational silos are suddenly disrupted, causing trouble for others downstream who get an object lesson in interdependency as they find that their computing power was someone else’s as well. The key to contending with the demands and challenges enterprises face is in the data that are generated by each device, service, system, and application. It means using that data to get a real-time picture of the health, availability, and reliability of those components, and of knowing how to respond to problems when—and even before—they occur.
Legacy tools and approaches to NetOps weren’t designed to tackle the volume, velocity, and variety of data generated by networks today. Doing that requires a monitoring platform capable of real-time discovery, and of ingesting, normalizing, and analyzing all the data and turning it into actionable insights that allow your NetOps team to see the status of the enterprise moment-to-moment no matter how quickly they change.
NetOps, DevOps, and SecOps
Another area where a state-of-the-art NetOps program can support the organization is in its development operations (DevOps) and security operations (SecOps) ambitions. Traditionally, IT operations and the DevOps philosophy were at loggerheads. The rapid development, testing, and rollout of new applications and services that drive DevOps meant trouble for IT operations teams already struggling with the typical pace of change in their enterprises. By the time the IT operations team had figured out the impact of a new application or service, the DevOps team was already well into their next project.
But when NetOps is underpinned by AIOps, those two groups can work in concert to better understand the performance of the new service, but also of how it might impact any associated services and applications. Because DevOps is driven by rapid feedback, an AIOps platform can make that information available in real-time, giving DevOps the information it needs to make any necessary adjustments before deployment, rather than waiting for days to see what happens and having to go back to fix issues.
Similarly, the chaos of change that occurs in the enterprise under normal circumstances, let alone during a crisis, can put the enterprise at risk of a data breach. Whether from an inadvertent exposure of data due to error or system failure, or at the hands of a malicious actor able to gain a toe hold in a forgotten device or application, a NetOps team with a complete, real-time view of the enterprise can support SecOps with the information needed to close security gaps as well as the ability to spot anomalies that suggest whether a system has been compromised.
Getting NetOps Up to Speed
Odds are that you are among the 88% of organizations that have not transitioned to modern IT operations monitoring tools, which means that, even if you’ve invested in things like the cloud, mobility, and virtualization, your NetOps program can’t keep pace with the needs of your people or of the enterprise. That means Step One for getting up to speed requires moving from your legacy IT operations monitoring tools to an AIOps platform.
With a complete, contextual view of the enterprise, you can begin to identify the areas of need, such as throughput bottlenecks, inefficient workflows, and systems and equipment requiring repair or maintenance. You can also begin to conduct root cause analysis on persistent issues and resolve the underlying problems rather than rely on workarounds. Finally, your NetOps team can begin the process of implementing simple automations that increase the efficiency and reliability of the network, services, and applications your organization uses. At that point, more sophisticated automations can be planned, designed, and implemented, and innovations benefitting the entire organization can be realized.
Want to learn more about NetOps? Read this white paper, “A Seismic Shift in NetOps: The Case for Modern Tools”>