Network Monitoring

Network Monitoring- Why we need it, and why it doesn't work

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 | Dan Blacharski

One of the first things the network manager of an enterprise will do, if it hasn't been done already, is implement a network monitoring system. Considered an essential part of the network, much time, money and effort is put into deploying and maintaining a monitoring system, and even more time, money and effort into interpreting the results. For a large enterprise, costs can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, though fortunately for the purveyors of network monitoring systems, upper management seldom questions the need for it.

Perhaps because it is no longer contentious in nature, many enterprises have fallen into the "deploy it and forget it" mode; and network monitoring vendors have gotten complacent in keeping up to date with newer traffic usage patterns. Today of course, demand for capacity is growing at an exponential rate. But it's not just a volume argument. The nature of that traffic has also changed; and we're no longer just sending transactional information and basic data. Rich media, mobile access, and time-dependent applications such as VoIP rule the day. In addition to simply monitoring traffic, we also have to customise its delivery. "Best effort" protocols are no longer adequate; prioritisation has become essential to make sure voice calls aren't lost or choppy, and essential videoconferences aren't fuzzy. A dramatic shift towards a mobile office has also complicated matters as more employees log into the network from home and on the road. Network monitoring becomes less useful with time-dependent traffic, and monitoring alone is unable to adequately monitor traffic in relation to timeliness and achieving service levels.

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In addition, network traffic usually is sent with a policy of discard-and-resend, which means that a packet may be discarded and re-sent later under certain circumstances. When sending a spreadsheet file, this is largely irrelevant, but that sort of asynchronous transmission wreaks havoc with voice traffic. While speed is always a good thing when it comes to time-sensitive networks, consistency is even more critical.

When all's said and done, network traffic policies aren't just the domain of the tech guys in the back room, it is a critical business decision. Traffic policies may influence customer satisfaction. Julian Palmer, an expert in application data flow at Visualware in a recent article argues that network traffic issues are the root cause of many customer complaints. Whether you are running a VoIP-based call centre or other time sensitive application, traffic policies may not only determine how successful a company's teleworking program is; they may also be a deciding factor in whether a customer sticks with a transaction all the way through or abandons it halfway.
With those factors and essential business needs in mind; so it behoves the network manager to seek solutions that go beyond basic network monitoring and focuses on guaranteeing service and quality levels successfully on an end-to-end basis.

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