Network Management Fundamentals

This document describes some basic fundamentals about Network-management, as it is understood by industry today.

What Is Network Management?

Network management to your CxO would mean being able to ensure that your enterprise IT infrastructure (consisting of departments, locations and services) is performing optimally. To the Network Manager it would mean be managing the details that constitute this high-level definition. Typically, at this level, network management translates, in the simplest terms, into managing fault and performance across applications, servers and networks.

Network Management Protocols

There are several protocols in use today, to communicate with the routers, servers or applications in order to do network management such as:

Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)
The most commonly used protocol and widely adopted especially in the network switch and router world.
Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI)
Only available on Windows platforms, this is an implementation of the newer Distributed Management Interface (DMI) standard and allows agentless monitoring on Windows platforms.
A new protocol for management at the application level (mainly java enterprise applications)
Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) is a set of management and Internet standard technologies developed to unify the management of distributed computing environments. WBEM provides the ability for the industry to deliver a well-integrated set of standard-based management tools, facilitating the exchange of data across otherwise disparate technologies and platforms.

Network Management Software Today

New Network Management software systems must be able to support a number of management protocols for today's hybrid IT networks. Traditionally Network Management Systems (NMS) always had a clear separation between “fault monitoring” - whether something is up or down, and “performance” which is a measure of how well something is working. The immediate need of an operations group is always whether a network device or server is up or down, but as the need matures from a reactive component to a proactive one, the next requirement is typically “how is the system performing”. These enterprise requirements have forced a convergence between network monitoring and performance management tools.

Key considerations in selecting an Network Management Product

Choosing a network management system typically involves understanding the following issues:

  1. Does my system need to have fault management only do I need true performance monitoring from my network management system?
  2. Are deployment and training time important for my network management system? (products with higher out-of-the-box functionality can translate into significant savings and implementation and usage success)
  3. Is flexibility and ease of extension (open API) for custom requirements important?
  4. Do we need an XML compatible product?
  5. Is it worth paying for real-time performance?
  6. Do we need to correlate data across network, servers, apps and relation to service or is a spreadsheet good enough?
  7. Do we need a generic reporting model (customizable) or are canned reports better?
  8. Do we need to see trend reports or are snapshot reports good enough?
  9. Do we need a network management system with distributed architecture?
  10. Do we need a single user system or a multi-user system?
  11. Do we need to organize my reports by users, departments, locations, services or everything?
  12. What kind of network management do we need if we are using it to offer managed services?
  13. Is the system easy enough for use by a CxO?
  14. How do we set network management thresholds?
  15. What type of alarms/messages need to be configured?
  16. How does the system distinguish between minor and major alarms and then how does it suppress false alarms/transient alarms?
  17. What will be the topology of the system and does that affect our options in choosing a system?
  18. How do Firewalls affect a specific system?
  19. What kind of interface will the system have with our trouble ticketing and billing systems?
  20. Do we  need a system that can run on multiple environments (Solaris, NT or other)?
  21. Is return on investment (ROI) a key consideration in our network management system decision?
  22. How can a network management systems deliver ROI?
  23. How important is it to have fault and performance management in a single interface?
  24. Do you have a requirement to manage non-standard custom devices?
  25. Can you adequately support the growth in the number of devices (scalability)?