In today's digital age, enterprises rely heavily on their networks to facilitate communication, collaboration, and operations. However, network performance issues can significantly impact productivity, customer satisfaction, and revenue generation. As a result, many organizations invest in network performance monitoring (NPM) tools to proactively manage network performance and ensure smooth operations. But according to EMA's Network Management Megatrends 2022 report, the percentage of NetOps teams that can successfully monitor their network performance is in steep decline, dropping from 49% in 2016 to just 27% in 2022.
Clearly these teams need to do a better job evaluating the ROI of the tools they're using. To help do that, let's explore the challenges NetOps teams face today, and dive into the quantifiable benefits they should be considering when calculating ROI of NPM tools.
First, a few of the challenges organizations and their teams face:
■ Lack of a centralized platform for efficiently managing and monitoring all devices
Many organizations string together network performance monitoring products or end up logging into individual devices looking for data and trying to pinpoint issues. Without a centralized platform to monitor, analyze, and facilitate the remediation of network issues, teams will always struggle to save time, streamline operations, and meet the changing demands of the business.
■ Inability to monitor and analyze network telemetry efficiently
Legacy and alternative solutions can have issues in retrieving various telemetry and correlating different telemetry types. Without a single NPM (or tightly integrated set of tools) teams often face performance and telemetry storage issues that can impact their ability to efficiently analyze traffic over time to identify trends. This can also make report generation laborious and hinder performance close rates.
■ The challenge of scale
Networks continue to increase in size and scope. This is driven by a variety of new technologies across cloud, on-prem, and hybrid environments. Teams often struggle to scale while still maintaining visibility. They require tools that eliminate the network insight gap and deliver the best data and insights needed to act quickly and remediate issues.
These are just some of the challenges organizations face. Note that each organization will likely have their own unique network performance hurdles to consider.
BENEFITS OF NPM
Next, let's look at the quantifiable and unquantifiable benefits teams can achieve by adopting a comprehensive NPM solution. These benefits may directly or indirectly address the challenges described above. Nevertheless, consider all of these when evaluating the ROI of an NPM solution.
First the quantifiable benefits:
■ Reduced equipment (i.e., circuits) and bandwidth costs
By having a NPM solution that can properly identify network issues related to bandwidth usage and patterns, organizations can reduce or avoid the purchase of expensive equipment that doesn't address underlying issues. For example, enterprises can improve network performance by properly identifying chokepoints and redirecting network traffic instead of purchasing new equipment and additional bandwidth.
■ Increased business productivity from reduced network outages
Network downtime can be greatly reduced by improving troubleshooting productivity. This is enabled by the visibility and analytics that come with NPM solutions. Knowing how a product can reduce downtime can then be qualified into business value.
■ Streamlined report generation as a result of eliminating manual processes
Time spent by network engineers manually gathering data for report creation and generation can be greatly reduced and, in many cases, eliminated. The ideal NPM solution provides a wealth of standardized reports out-of-the-box. This makes it easy to create customized reports which can be scheduled and sent out automatically, reducing otherwise repetitive manual tasks.
■ Reduction in mean time to resolution
The reduction in time to resolve complex network issues with increased visibility and analysis results in an increase in the productivity of the network support team. Time to resolve network issues can often be cut in half with the right NPM solution.
Now the unquantified benefits:
■ Monitor different devices with a single solution
The ability to manage many devices from multiple device manufacturers at dispersed sites — on-premises, remote, SD-WAN, cloud, hybrid — in one place can be a challenge for organizations. Advanced NPM solutions deliver this centralized functionality.
■ Enhanced visualization
Preferable NPM solutions offer the ability to easily visualize network data, for example showing hop-by-hop network traffic for better situational awareness (and also enable segmentation of issues).
■ Ability to generate telemetry from parts of the network that have limited or no device telemetry
For example, in certain campus deployments, the switch can limit NetFlow capabilities, but a successful NPM solution can add packet analytics and generate enriched NetFlow to increase visibility. Using enriched NetFlow can deliver network and application performance data where none was previously available.
■ Ease of use
The product's ease of use is hard to quantify but key for product adoption, daily use by network engineers, and for reducing the amount of training required. Other ease-of-use capabilities can be integrated, for example, IT service management (ITSM) solutions or SD-WAN systems that automatically gather performance information.
These are just some of the challenges and benefits to consider when evaluating the ROI of an NPM solution. The key is identifying the challenges that exist and then quantifying the benefits that help address those challenges. Many vendors also have ROI studies associated with their products, so don't be afraid to ask.
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