Network Agility - What It Is and How to Achieve It
August 26, 2019

Jay Botelho
LiveAction

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If you work in the field of IT, you've most likely heard the term "network agility" being thrown around more and more lately. It's becoming a major focus for many network operations (NetOps) teams today and is even ranked third on the list of the top 10 trends impacting infrastructure and operations this year, according to Gartner. On top of that, a recent survey we conducted also found the top goal for networking and IT teams in 2019 is improving network agility. To better understand why this concept is so important today and how it can enable organizations to better support key IT objectives and overall business operations, we must first examine exactly what it is.

The term network agility technically refers to the degree to which an organization's network infrastructure can leverage automated configurations and policies to self-manage and operate "autonomously." But it's also commonly used to describe when NetOps teams are equipped with tools that provide visibility, flexibility and scalability, which are required to manage and respond to the major technologies and trends impacting their connected businesses.

The widespread, ongoing adoption of innovative technologies related to SD-WAN, cloud services, 5G, etc. means that today's networks are in a constant state of flux. Although these technologies offer tremendous business benefits, they can also add tremendous complexity as well, creating major obstacles that prevent network agility. For example, NetOps teams today report dealing with issues like a lack of visibility across all domains of the network, spending too much time troubleshooting, and an inability to proactively monitor the network. It's virtually impossible to achieve the level of network agility that businesses require today with these obstacles standing in the way.

A Closer Look at How Complex Networks Impact Agility

As the number of mobile devices, cloud-based networks and applications have continued to increase, network teams are decreasing in size and struggling to find ways to monitor everything effectively and meet the network agility needs of the business. And of course end-users, partners, customers and executives still expect a high-performing network. This challenge won't go away any time soon — it'll only become more complex and difficult for NetOps to monitor effectively as more new technology initiatives, devices and applications are introduced. Just look at recent IDC projections that predict the SDN market will reach $13.8B by 2021, or the fact that 75.4B IoT devices will be in use by 2025, according to IHS forecasts.

NetOps teams need better visibility and troubleshooting capabilities

In order to achieve a level of network agility that supports business objectives today, NetOps teams need better visibility and troubleshooting capabilities. Legacy tools designed for highly specific network domain use cases like VoIP and video quality simply won't cut it today. Without granular insight into every aspect of the network, IT teams are left with major blind spots, which can lead to unnecessary and time-consuming troubleshooting tasks and downtime that can put the business in jeopardy.

To compensate for blind spots caused by the use of legacy tools, many network teams purchase various point solutions to monitor specific parts of the network. In fact, according to EMA research, 83% of enterprises use multiple monitoring tools; 49% use between 4 and 10 NPMD tools; and 27% are using more than 11 tools. That's too many tools! With individual subscriptions, service contracts, renewal programs, etc. for each, the costs can be exorbitant. But beyond those factors, the lack of integration and cumbersome workflows involved with toggling between that many solutions can stymie the productivity and effectiveness of NetOps teams, which can cost businesses even more dearly. Having to rely on more than 10 tools to manage the network doesn't sound very agile, does it?

Achieving Network Agility

In order to achieve network agility and to properly maintain and optimize today's increasingly complex networks, NetOps teams need unified, single-vendor network performance monitoring and diagnostics solutions. A centralized network management solution can significantly reduce cost and visibility issues brought on by tool sprawl, providing complete insight across the entire enterprise (from SD-WAN and wireless environments to the cloud and more).

Solutions that ingest multiple data types including packet data, SNMP, NetFlow, IPFIX, and more, provide IT administrators a comprehensive, real-time view of the network, while providing the data needed for root-cause analysis. This can empower them to proactively monitor and identify issues across the network as they are happening, regardless of the complex network initiatives or technologies involved.

This level of visibility provides network teams with the agility they need to keep up with the demands, changes and issues of today's networks and better enables them to support their business' strategic goals and the bottom line.

Jay Botelho is Director of Engineering at LiveAction
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