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Looking at the network through a 4-D Lens: The insights IT needs for comprehensive network performance monitoring

Written by Matt Stevens, CEO of AppNeta

Network monitoring solutions come in all shapes and sizes, from single-purpose tools that might only confirm app availability, to full-fledged platforms that look at every packet on the network and at each layer of the stack.

This variety shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's been working in the networking trenches, as the rate of change in how enterprises manage and deploy their network infrastructure has been fast and furious over the past decade. Teams are retiring traditional architectures in favor of cloud-delivered environments, offloading the management and ownership of a lot of their network to third-party providers in the process.

In that same vein, forward-thinking enterprises are quickly retiring their legacy applications and workflows for SaaS solutions, which also takes a great deal of the traditional support burden off of enterprise IT.

In practice, the road to cloud and SaaS isn't always as seamless as promised. While enterprise IT is in charge of less hardware, they're still the team that tends to get blamed first when applications -- SaaS or otherwise -- and the network aren't meeting end user expectations.

Hence, the critical importance of comprehensive network monitoring. IT teams can't be running blind when they migrate to cloud and undergo SaaS adoption: Just because the act of network management is changing, the responsibilities of IT remains the same. Without visibility into all corners of their networks -- from HQ to the branch office -- IT's hands are tied when it comes to resolution, not to mention assigning blame where it's rightly deserved.

To gain full visibility into modern hybrid networks, teams need to strive towards a combination of monitoring methods that provide insight into four critical areas: Network paths, packets, Web/SaaS apps, and flow data.

Network Paths

Monitoring network paths entails taking an active approach to measuring the health and availability of the network end-to-end, giving enterprise IT insight into where, exactly, along the app delivery path an issue takes place.

A single network path can be as short as a laptop connected to a local file server over the office Ethernet or wireless LAN, or as long as a 35-hop, satellite-enabled WAN connection peering through multiple ISPs around the Globe - and everything in between. Without insight into each hop -- inclusive of potential delays or outages -- teams won't readily have answers for end users when issues occur, let alone a clear path to resolution.

Packets

Network packets represent the raw data that teams often need to suss out the root cause of issues on a granular level. While app discovery and conversation-level data is essential for understanding the overall app landscape, packets offer the raw data sometimes necessary for advanced performance analysis and troubleshooting.

The best way to identify the root cause of issues at an enterprise level is to take a combined active and passive approach; actively analyzing packet responses over the network to monitor the delivery path of app data, and passive packet inspection to understand what apps are currently in use over the network at a given time.

Web Applications

With networks becoming increasingly distributed, centralized IT teams need to have a continuous local perspective into end-user experience even when they don't have a physical presence at a given remote or branch locations.

A proactive monitoring solution would help create a baseline of app performance from the end-user perspective through synthetic scripting: Scripts emulate the paths and actions that end users experience as an application and runs this test periodically to alert IT when performance degrades.

Flow data

By collecting flow data, a monitoring solution can deliver a high-level, passive view of all network traffic, inclusive of all the users, applications and remote offices the infrastructure is designed to support. When teams have a better understanding of what applications are actually using their network capacity, they can make better decisions about prioritizing certain programs, setting new policies and taking active stances on remediation.

By analyzing flows-sequences of packets from a source to a destination, which may be another host, a multicast group, or a broadcast domain-IT can isolate specific conversations for analysis. And when teams are able to combine their flow data with packet-level insights, they can pinpoint network usage to specific hosts and users on the network, giving greater context into what's a tech issue and what's not.

At the end of the day, having visibility into four dimensions of network performance data is so much more than a "nice-to-have." The new reality of the modern enterprise network requires that IT teams have as much data handy to stay ahead of the many potential pitfalls that are so common during digital transformation.

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About the Author

matt stevens 

Matt Stevens is co-founder, CEO, President, and Chairman of AppNeta, the leader in performance monitoring solutions built for the complex, distributed enterprise. Prior to founding AppNeta, Matt was CTO of the Information and Event Management (SIEM) business unit of RSA, The Security Division of EMC. He joined EMC after the acquisition of Network Intelligence Corp., where he was co-founder, President and CTO. While at RSA, Matt was also a member of EMC's Office of the CTO, where his team had responsibility for EMC's overall strategic direction for information security. Prior to Network Intelligence and RSA, Matt held senior technology, sales, and marketing positions with NetApp, Solbourne Computer and Harris Corporation.

Published Monday, April 15, 2019 9:13 AM by David Marshall
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