There was a time when simply deploying network taps in place of SPAN ports put you ahead of the game when in terms of network visibility. In recent years, we’re seeing more and more IT managers shift from single-device network visibility solutions to multi-device, multi-site deployments.
However, increasing application demands and the sprawl of network services have resulted in new levels of complexity for monitoring, performance management, and security.
Guaranteeing pervasive network visibility is the only way to ensure network monitoring and security devices are working properly. The last thing any enterprise IT leader needs is an application performance issue going unnoticed or a virus infecting the network because their tools weren’t seeing every data packet.
But it’s not enough just to deploy the right combination of network taps, network packet brokers (NPBs), and bypass switches. Centralized network visibility management is the missing link for visibility in many enterprises.
Why Centralized Network Visibility Management Is an Enterprise Necessity
One of the biggest challenges that IT leaders face is keeping up with the rapid rate of networking changes. Whether it be demands from business stakeholders for new applications or new security threats to defend against, IT is often stuck in a constant state of reaction.
When you can only react to application performance issues and security threats, your business will suffer. Proactively addressing network issues is the key to staying ahead of monitoring and security demands.
Creating a pervasive visibility layer is the first step toward being more proactive. But the all-important second step for enterprise IT leaders is to implement a management strategy that actually enables to easily manage the visibility layer and optimize network tools and security appliances by sending the right traffic to the right tool. A well managed visibility layer, empowers network awareness in real-time, facilitating rapid responses to constantly-changing demands.
As enterprise networks continue to handle more traffic and become globally dispersed, there’s no choice but to focus on creating centralized network visibility management. But what exactly does centralized network visibility management entail? If you’re looking to manage more proactively, there are two main concerns that a centralized network management solution should address. It should:
- Enable a comprehensive, 360 degree view of your network visibility layer
- Offer simple and intuitive configuration of network visibility nodes to optimize traffic management and tool utilization
These two principles bring a level of control to the IT team in order to locate, isolate, and implement new network visibility solutions for performance and network security related issues without being concerned about blind spots or downtime.
However, these two principles don’t give you much to base your product evaluations on. When looking at centralized network management systems, you need to know the main features that will deliver the greatest benefits.
8 Features to Expect in a Centralized Network Visibility Management System
Centralized network visibility management systems are the key to making your network visibility layer seamless. As the number of visibility nodes increase across your enterprise network, you need a means of maintaining control regardless of scale.
Moreover, as the visibility layer is used by both NetOps and SecOps, an efficient centralized network visibility management will facilitate resource utilization by multiple departments.
While you evaluate potential centralized network management systems, keep these eight features in mind to ensure you’re setting yourself up for success:
- Intuitive interface for sending the right traffic to the right tool. How easy is it to set up configuration maps between traffic sources and the network and security tools that minimizes configuration time and errors
- SDN architecture that includes OpenFlow discovery and topology visualization
- Single-pane-of-glass interface that simplifies firmware/configuration updates for multiple visibility nodes
- Support for REST APIs that enable programmability of the network visibility layer
- Unified management for all aspects of the visibility layer—network taps, network packet brokers, and bypass switches
- Ability to toggle between managing both the forest (group view of all network visibility tools) and the trees (detailed device views)
- Easy self-installation through a virtual machine
- Control over user management, user roles, and authentication
Vendors will make plenty of promises while you evaluate centralized network visibility management systems. But if you focus on these key features, you’ll be able to cut through any marketing noise and understand that you’re getting a system that will make it easier to manage a sprawling enterprise network.
One of the most important use cases for centralized network visibility management systems with these key features is to improve your security operations. In this regard, software-defined networking (SDN) features should be a primary focus as you consider possible solutions.
How SDN-Enabled Centralized Network Management Improves Security
The main benefit of an SDN is that network admins no longer have to configure each piece of hardware in the visibility layer. Instead, they can apply changes to the entire network through the centralized management console. And when you’re deploying more and more security appliances to combat increasingly sophisticated threats, this kind of efficiency is essential to maximizing protection.
With SDN-enabled centralized network management, traffic is seamlessly directed through inline security appliances without experiencing issues as packets are coming from multiple flows in multiple locations. Easy configuration mapping of traffic flows within an SDN-enabled solution allow you to groom traffic from one or multiple locations, analyzing individual packets for malicious activity from your central console.
In a widespread, high-traffic enterprise network, it may be inefficient and counter productive to deploy security appliances in every location. With an SDN aware centralized network visibility management system, you can improve the efficiency of security analysis and better protect your business by sending traffic from many dispersed visibility nodes (representing critical traffic points on your network), to a centralized security analyzer.
Give Your Enterprise IT Team Complete Network Visibility
You can’t manage what you can’t see. That statement has never rung as true for IT leaders now that cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated, BYOD continues to grow, and networks are expanding beyond the walls of physical data centers.
But with a centralized network visibility management system, you can maintain complete visibility even as your network grows. This is what the Niagara Networks Network Visibility Controller (NVC) delivers.
With NVC, you’re better able to protect your data, improve your operational efficiency, and successfully manage complex enterprise networks. Furthermore, it’s been painstakingly designed for maximum performance and flexibility, giving IT pros the freedom and control to introduce new elements to the network and troubleshoot any potential issues proactively.
NVC gives you an intuitive interface and with its sophisticated abstraction layer, enables intent based network configuration reducing Opex and errors and time. Together with SDN technology that allows underlying, complicated tasks that are typically associated with network management to be simplified and made more transparent.
Whether you’re looking to improve inline security, enhance visibility across multi-site locations, or make your network more scalable, a centralized network visibility management system like NVC will help.
If you want to learn more about centralized network management and how to handle metadata on your network, contact us today and find out how Niagara Networks can help.