Keith Bromley
Sr. Manager, Product Marketing at Ixia
Blog

Proactive Monitoring: The ABCs of Network Visibility

August 23, 2017 by Keith Bromley

When it comes to IT network management, you’ve got two choices—be reactive or proactive. Reactiveness is pretty straight forward, just wait until something happens. What is proactiveness though? Proactive network management involves monitoring your network by using visibility technology and actively testing network performance.

Some people might ask, why do I need to be proactive? According to the EMA Network Management Megatrends 2016 report, 40% of network problems are detected and reported by end users. That’s a lot of disgruntled users to contend with. This is where proactive troubleshooting can help. Data can be collected either passively or actively by probes within the network to give you an instant status of what is, and what is not, happening on the network.

Purpose of Proactive Monitoring

The EMA study also stated that 26% of respondents reported that one of their top networking challenges is the lack of end-to-end, multi-site network visibility and troubleshooting capabilities. A proactive monitoring solution can provide simple service level agreement (SLA) and customer experience monitoring for a wide range of applications including voice, video, web services, and critical enterprise applications. The goal is to ensure that the infrastructure is capable of delivering an amazing customer experience 24 x 7, even when there is no user traffic on the network to monitor.

Typical deployments consist of software and/or hardware active endpoints, emulated application traffic, and a simple web-based management and monitoring interface. Once in place, it delivers SLA and experience monitoring, site-to-site and site-to-datacenter reliability and performance monitoring, and proactive fault detection and isolation. It even lets IT conduct service readiness assessments and new service turn-up verifications.

Proactive Monitoring can then be used to deliver numerous benefits including:

  1. Quicker trouble identification and isolation times
  2. Reduced overall MTTR for customer / user impacting issues
  3. Increased network uptime and performance
  4. Improved overall service level agreement compliance
  5. Easier application, datacenter, and cloud performance monitoring
  6. Smoother new service / application rollouts

Typical Use Cases

Proactive monitoring has a myriad of applications. Some common use cases include:

  • Generate network traffic to test SLAs for on-premises and cloud networks. The information gathered can then be used to inform management about which goals are being met. If goals are not being met, you can use the impartial data you've collected and contact your vendor to have them either fix any observed network problems, or give you a discount if they are failing to meet agreed upon SLAs.
  • Get an observation of real network performance to get an “end-user perspective” of network and application performance. This saves a lot of truck rolls, awkward calls to end users trying to get them to explain or figure out what is not working, and can dramatically reduce the time required to detect and resolve issues.
  • Pretest how an application will perform on the network under load before your users do to create faster and better network upgrade rollouts. For instance, you can simulate lots of traffic load and lots of different protocols usage that could stress test the network without having to wait until the busy hour.
  • Understand how well your applications are running. To get a true indication of network performance, network tools (e.g. NPM and APM) need to have a good, i.e. large, amount of traffic coming in to them. This often makes you dependent upon peak busy hours and so forth. With proactive monitoring solutions, you can place probes anywhere in your network to test with whenever you want to.
  • Generate application-specific data. For instance, create Skype-like data to properly test the performance of your IM/voice/video solution.

Considerations

Here are some things to keep in mind when considering proactive monitoring solutions.

Does your proactive monitoring solution support synthetic transactions? – You need to be able to analyze the network any time of the day. This means you need to be able to generate traffic to accurately test the network if there isn’t enough native content at that point in time. It also needs to be the right kind of traffic, like certain application types or protocols.

Does your proposed solution fit all of your monitoring needs – A fundamental item to understand is whether your proposed solution works for entire network. For instance, do you have a physical or virtual data center? Do you have any cloud networks that you want to validate the performance of? Do you have all three situations? If you purchase a solution that fits all three environments, then you don’t have to work about future network changes and their impact and costs on this portion of your network.

More Information on Proactive Monitoring

If you want more information on the benefits of Proactive Monitoring and Ixia’s Hawkeye solution, read this whitepaper and check out the material available here.