Troubleshooting's Secret Weapon: Greater Visibility
February 05, 2018

Jason Baudreau
NetBrain Technologies

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Today's network engineers have their work cut out for them. Bigger, more complex networks have created an environment where network engineers are forced to adapt and develop more effective ways to manage and troubleshoot their networks. This begins with better visibility, which has presented an issue traditionally as engineers struggle to create an accurate picture due to challenges with static maps.

87 percent of survey respondents primarily rely on manual techniques to create and update their network diagrams

Network engineers typically spend hours or even days at a time manually mapping out network diagrams. In fact, NetBrain's State of the Network Engineer study found that 87 percent of survey respondents primarily rely on manual techniques to create and update their network diagrams. However, by the time these diagrams are complete, they are already out-of-date and therefore useless.

This is where automation comes in. By automating the documentation process, any part of the network can be visualized in seconds with infinite detail. In addition, these maps will update automatically each time there is a change to the network, so engineers can be sure they are always seeing a thorough and accurate picture.

Manual documentation is wrought with inefficiencies. When it comes to a network outage or breach, network engineers are working against the clock to get back online. Manual methods and static documents only add to the frustration and time to repair.

Currently, most network engineers rely on a combination of manual techniques for troubleshooting, including traceroute and the command-line interface (CLI) to gain visibility into a network. However, these are tedious and time-consuming methods that force engineers to work through one device at a time to identify and address an issue. In fact, 43 percent of survey respondents stated that troubleshooting takes too much time using CLI. This can result in an overreliance on tribal knowledge and a slew of other tools to access critical information such as configuration details and performance data. This will hinder a network teams' ability to troubleshoot issues quickly by having to cycle back and forth between applications.

So, what's the alternative to network engineers suffering though hours of manual documentation to find the route of an outage? A Dynamic Map.

Dynamic Maps integrate with network teams' existing ticketing systems, monitoring tools, security and event management systems to create an all-encompassing tool. When an issue arises, a Dynamic Map can be created instantly to target the problem by simply identifying the source and destination IP addresses. Through automation, it can then be used to diagnose the connectivity, performance and configuration of each interface. The ability to immediately identify the source of an issue significantly reduces a network team's mean time to repair (MTTR), which can positively impact a company's bottom line. The longer the network is down, the longer the organization loses out on revenue.

With the abundance of new trends like AI/machine learning, SD-WAN and DevOps, it's unclear what exactly the networking industry will look like in the future. One thing we do know for certain — networks will only become more complex and difficult to manage. Automation will become the secret ingredient to network management, arming engineers with much-needed visibility as day-to-day workflows become nearly impossible to complete manually. Enterprises not prepared for these changes and who are without an accurate picture of their network will ultimately suffer.

Jason Baudreau is Product Strategist, Network Innovations, NetBrain Technologies
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