How Automation Impacts Network Visibility
February 06, 2020

Alastair Hartrup
Network Critical

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The ever-increasing access and speeds offered by today's modern networks offer many advantages to businesses and consumers, but also make the integrity of their performance and security more paramount than ever before. Yet innovations like mobile applications, IoT and cloud services add to bandwidth strain and expand potential entry points for security breaches. Despite the business benefits these new technologies and others like them can provide, IT teams are now further tasked with ensuring network integrity given the complexities and visibility challenges they often introduce.

In order to keep up, more organizations are deploying advanced security and performance monitoring solutions to help streamline performance and management, identify and mitigate dangerous network anomalies, and source valuable information about how various network functions can improve.

Automation in Network Performance and Security Management

Still, organizations are struggling to manage the constant fluctuations in network conditions and security threats. This has prompted many to explore how automation can help to streamline network management and security processes. Automation can enable a network to more quickly respond to changing traffic flows and patterns by automating product configuration changes. Businesses can achieve significant OpEx savings by reducing management workloads while simultaneously making security and performance monitoring more proactive.

Furthermore, automation can be a visibility game-changer. For instance, it can help NetOps teams engaging in device deployment to eliminate previous requirements for manual configuration and programming. Automation can also reduce the likelihood of a network outage by managing workloads more efficiently across a network.

Downtime incidents can be incredibly costly and detrimental for business — just look at what happened to Target back in June 2019 when their point-of-sale system went down for hours. The level of efficiency automation can bring to workload management can prevent these types of outages.

In terms of security, automation has become a key component in most organizations' strategy for combating the rising tide of cyber breaches. Since many of today's security incidents are made possible by automated processes, SecOps teams must scale their defenses through automated processing using machine learning to synthesize pre-existing threat intelligence data to provide a network defense that automatically responds to new conditions.

Automated threat detection and response systems allow security teams to examine the network and quickly identify vulnerabilities. Moreover, once an automated security tool identifies a potential threat, it can not only apply the necessary remediation, but it can also help SecOps teams implement the necessary adjustments to reduce further incidents.

Sourcing the Right Information

While it's important to understand the role automation plays in network performance and security management, these sophisticated tools are only as effective as the data they receive. This emphasizes the need to ensure that the correct data is being delivered to the right tools, and highlights another level of critical infrastructure — network TAPs and packet brokers. These devices provide access to data that network monitoring and security tools rely on for visibility.

By using a layered approach, these access technologies filter and load balance traffic, feeding critical network insights and packet data to multiple essential networking tools. APIs can help automate packet broker solutions in order to provide security and monitoring tools with correlated data, freeing the analysis tools to perform their functions faster and without as much burden on processing speeds. Instead of tying up network probes and appliances with the task of correlating traffic flows, a properly engineered visibility layer with TAPs and packet brokers can remove that burden so analysis tools can focus on what they're designed to do: help IT teams better maintain and improve network performance and security.

More sophisticated packet broker technology can receive network packet inputs from physical and virtual TAPs and outside control via APIs, enabling monitoring and security tools to effectively filter and control the data they receive. Deploying TAPs and packet brokers allows non-intrusive visibility and access to data that automated systems need to perform their service. As automation ties these devices together, improves their efficacy and streamlines management, monitoring tools and security appliances will become more efficient.

Without the right data automated network performance and security solutions simply can't perform as designed, which can lead to many costly issues. If the integrity and reliability of the information these tools receive is compromised in any way, NetOps and SecOps teams will end up dealing with major downtime and security incidents.

Properly configured network access technologies such as TAPs and packet brokers can ensure that advanced network performance and security management tools are operating effectively. As more IT departments are looking to streamline their increasingly complex tasks and processes, data remains the foundation for ensuring the reliability and effectiveness of today's critical automated performance and security solutions.

Alastair Hartrup is CEO of Network Critical
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