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Network Nightmares: What causes them, and how to remediate them with out-of-bound management

By Todd Rychecky, VP of Americas at Opengear

The potential for a network outage should not only keep engineers awake at night, but it should also concern the entire business. Network downtime can be costly, so much so that Gartner discovered that the average cost of one minute is equivalent to $5,600. And in 2020, 31% of businesses lost at least a million USD in damages from an outage. A comprehensive survey of 500 senior IT decision-makers found that the three main fears from network outages were decreased customer satisfaction, data loss and financial cost. No business is impervious; massive corporations are no exception. 

Facebook's network outage in early October is estimated to have cost $100 million, and in 2019 its multiple network outages cost $6.3 million for each hour of downtime. Just a two-hour outage to Target's registers in 2019 cost them $50 million in sales. Likewise, the 2018 hack on the British Airways' website and app resulted in the theft of financial and personal information for 380,000 customers. While it is important to understand that network downtime is not a matter of if but when it is also valuable to have an optimal setup that allows for quick recovery. Ideally, getting the network up and running requires remote access through a secondary connection that enables always-on access to network devices. 

The most common causes of network nightmares 

With network devices growing increasingly complex, outages from hardware failures and vulnerabilities due to frequently updated software stacks are becoming more regular. System outages can occur because of cyberattacks, human error or any number of anomalies or irregularities with network elements like cable interconnects, power supplies, and even air conditioning. However, the most common culprit for outages is the vulnerability of the primary network's last mile - the final segment of the production network that connects the network to the ISP. All network traffic for a single location gets funneled through single links then transmitted to the ISP. This traffic includes VPN, web, email, cloud, apps, etc., and gets routed to the internet through one major network pipe. Typically, management information flows through the same interfaces as user data, yet when these share the same place, businesses must use the data plane to access network equipment, known as in-bound management. 

Although in-bound management is cheap and simple, it is much less secure. The management plane and the data plane get exposed to similar security susceptibilities when traveling across the same network route. Moreover, if there is an outage, a business could get locked out of the management plane. With in-bound management, an outage can compromise not only user data but disable a business's ability to communicate with devices and jeopardize the integrity of network equipment. The preferable alternative to in-bound management is out-of-band management (OOB) which can run the management traffic on a stand-alone network that only handles management traffic.   

What is out-of-band management? 

OOB management's main purpose is to provide an alternate pathway to connect to critical devices when the primary network is down. OOB can access remote equipment like routers, switches and servers without touching the data plane through the management plane, which is separate from the primary ISP connection. It also gives presence and proximity to distributed networks. Failover to CellularTM offers enough bandwidth for essential processes to keep operating despite an outage. Additionally, whether at a data center or an edge location, an OOB network enables secure provisioning, day-to-day monitoring and management and remediation of the network infrastructure. OOB management allows businesses to continue working even when there is the worst network nightmare: an outage.   

Benefits of out-of-band management 

Although businesses should be aware of the possibility and potential consequences of network outages, they shouldn't let their network worries scare them into thinking that resiliency is impossible. OOB management is an effective remedy to downtime and offers features that substantially minimize network nightmares. In particular, the OOB management console - which operates independently from the in-band network - allows for link diversity and true network resilience. And when the primary link becomes unavailable, the console automatically initiates a failover to cellular providing internet connectivity for remote LANs and equipment 4G LTE networks. Some of the best OOB management consoles incorporate monitoring capabilities to watch network availability and automated email or SMS alerts. 

Although enormous companies, like Facebook, can recover from network outages, not every business has that kind of luxury. Compared to the price of downtime, cost shouldn't be an issue with an OOB management solution, as it is an investment that pays itself off every day. Leveraging OOB management plus a NetOps console server, capable of running docker containers and python scripts, and embedded physical security, day one provisioning is finally possible. Furthermore, everything becomes more secure and resilient in an independent management plane, from everyday network management to monitoring IT infrastructure. Also, the global cellular modules and centralized management software with most OOB management solutions guarantee access to critical devices to fix issues when the production network goes down.   

Overcoming the stresses of the modern network 

As networks get bigger and more complex, the higher the likelihood of an outage becomes. And because the pandemic pushed more infrastructure to the edge, it's expensive to send technicians on-site to fix problems. Even ordinary things like firmware updates and configuration changes require hands-on help. Considering the difficulties of modern networks, it's no wonder so many businesses are experiencing nightmares. Nevertheless, just as stressing less is the remedy for a peaceful night's sleep, so too is an OOB management network and its independent management plane the cure for recovering quickly, remotely and efficiently from network outages. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Todd Rychecky 

Todd Rychecky is VP of Americas for Opengear, responsible for developing and executing sales strategies, multiple business initiatives, hiring and talent development, setting performance goals, and growing the business. For 12 consecutive years, Rychecky and his Opengear Sales teams have experienced year over year sales growth. He joined the company in 2008 and was the first sales and marketing hire, helping kick start Opengear with sales, marketing, product marketing, and business development initiatives. His primarymain focus is on growing the sales teams, partner channels, and strategic accounts. Rychecky earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Nebraska Wesleyan University.

Published Tuesday, November 23, 2021 7:33 AM by David Marshall
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