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Modern WANOps: 7 Metrics That Matter

By Jubil Mathew, Technical Marketing Engineer at LiveAction

Enterprise networks are more complex and sophisticated than ever before. Managed wide area network (WAN) services, such as MPLS, continue to play a significant role in enterprise networks, but the internet has become a feasible WAN connectivity option. It's actually essential in the case of direct cloud connectivity. As a result, many enterprises adopt hybrid networks, a combination of managed WAN services and internet to address various WAN requirements. Although the internet is less reliable than managed WAN services, it can provide affordable, high-performance connectivity. Most enterprises experience improved performance and user experiences when relying on the internet for WAN connectivity.

That said, the hybrid nature of modern IT infrastructure makes it more difficult than ever to manage. Without end-to-end visibility, it's nearly impossible for network administrators to do so effectively. Relying on the internet for network operations can cause headaches. In fact, new EMA research shows that today's top hybrid WAN challenges include maintaining application performance levels, inconsistent quality across service providers, varying performance across geographies, poor visibility and more. Let's take a closer look at the metrics that matter most in modern WANOps:

  • Active Monitoring Data - Synthetic monitoring allows you to assess enterprise applications by simulating user or synthetic traffic. This enables you to proactively calculate critical issues applications traversing the network might come across. This type of active monitoring can help eliminate network availability issues, functionality problems and poor application performance, improving overall user experiences. 
  • Endpoint Transaction Data - Understanding endpoint usage, types of user applications, operating systems, security rules and more is critical when it comes to managing overall enterprise network usage and user experiences. Endpoint transaction data can help you monitor for and understand endpoint security and performance issues, manage security risks, and administer software updates.
  • Routing Data - Tracking network routing changes, WAN failures and alerts based on routing data helps you understand enterprise network behavior over time and take remedial action when necessary. This information can help you issue needed service alerts and make backup design changes to ensure smooth network functionality.
  • Network Flow Data - Using flow records from network devices to analyze traffic flows, bandwidth volume and usage, and application performance is essential when it comes to understanding critical information such as traffic destination, type and volume across the enterprise. Most administrators make network management decisions with these valuable insights using reports generated from the traffic statistic exports of NetFlow-enabled devices.
  • Cloud Provider Flow Logs - Similar to analyzing network traffic from on-premises devices with the help of NetFlow or IPFix records, you need to understand and analyze traffic flow to and from cloud providers to understand and manage performance levels across cloud-hosted applications and services.
  • Packet Data - You can store and use packet capture from network segments to inspect and baseline enterprise application behavior, analyze traffic patterns and network usage, and troubleshoot network or application performance problems.
  • Device Metrics - SNMP data gives you access to true device-level information, such as CPU and memory utilization, interface bandwidth utilization and hardware-level indicators like fan and power supply status, and more. You can use API-level information to integrate automation with network monitoring tools for service and event management.

Modern WANOps Requires Meaningful Visibility

According to EMA, network administrators see visibility into end-to-end loss, latency, and jitter across internet paths and internet and ISP outage reports as the most valuable WAN insights. DNS availability and resolution time are quite valuable as well. Network administrators also reported that today, hop-by-hop loss, latency, and jitter are less valuable than end-to-end measurements, while CDN metrics and BGP routing changes are of least importance. Network administrators prefer to have end-to-end visibility for enterprise traffic to better understand overall user experience and traffic patterns. End-to-end visibility means establishing insights at the desktop or virtual machine level, across WAN-Edge devices, and throughout the service provider core and data center devices.

When asked what to identify the top root causes of WAN issues today, 30% of respondents listed application errors and performance, while 30% cited network providers (ISP or MPLS providers) and 28% listed end-user error or client device failure. You and your team must be able to collect and analyze all the disparate data types listed above to identify and resolve these root causes. For example, if your users complain about poor voice or video service quality, you won be able to identify the source of the degradation without visibility into traffic or application-level monitoring. In this case, you're left wondering if it's a device or OS-level issue, a service provider problem, or something else. Visibility into end-to-end flow path for a specific conversation can show different performance metrics, DSCP markings and if there are any quality-of-service issues. End-user OS issues can also be a cause of bad application performance, so it important to understand end-to-end visibility. Visibility gaps across any of the above data types and metrics can allow performance issues to persist, and bring productivity and business operations to a halt.

Monitoring the Metrics That Matter

Most organizations use between four and 10 unique tools to monitor and troubleshoot their networks, from the data center to the cloud and from the LAN to the WAN. This can produce unintended productivity challenges from a workflow standpoint (resulting in further blind spots and performance issues), but it's also incredibly expensive in terms of licensing, support, specialized training, etc. Fortunately, some advanced network monitoring solutions offer consolidated functionality, enabling NetOps teams to see into the dark corners of each domain and better manage, optimize, and troubleshoot their hybrid networks.

Regardless of whether you're using multiple point solutions or a unified network management approach, you must be able to monitor the aforementioned metrics to establish the level of visibility today's hybrid WANs demand.

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About the Author

Jubil Mathew 

Jubil Mathew is a technical marketing engineer at LiveAction. In his current role, he supports multi-vendor integrations with LiveAction's solutions and educates organizations on advancements in the company's cloud deployment and analytics platform and SD-WAN capabilities. Jubil has expertise in cloud monitoring deployments, SD-WAN, and network performance management and diagnostics, and was previously a part of Cisco's IWAN solutions architecture and design team. Learn more about LiveAction here.

Published Friday, April 02, 2021 7:34 AM by David Marshall
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