The 3 Dragons of NetworkMonitoring


Alessandro Porro, Senior Vice President, Ipswitch

Network performance can be a beast: But the IT team that is properly prepared, with the righttools, can prevail in even the most difficult battles. Whetheryou are evolving from a disparate set of free tools, orreplacing an existing monitoring tool set, you will want tofocus on the core capabilities you need to tackle the scariestproblems. Your team can turn into the knights in shiningarmor that save users and your company from the frustrationand lost productivity caused by intermittent performanceproblems.
The Alert Storm Dragon
Without the proper tools, your monitoring environment canbe plagued by alert storms. One port on a router or switchgoes down making other devices invisible to your monitoringtool. This cascade of apparent failures makes it extremelydifficult to separate real failures from false positives.
Alert storms delay fault isolation and resolution whichputs a huge drag on performance, availability, and user satisfaction.
Alert storms arise when your monitoring tool is not ‘dependency aware’. It fails to recognize the connections(dependencies) from one port to another. Monitoring tools that recognizedependencies will automatically suppress thosealerts that are obviously generated based on these dependencies.

Slaying the Alert Storm Dragon
There are two ways a monitoring solution can address this issue- The first involves enabling the manual creation ofdependencies. This can be a time-consuming approach which can become untenable in network environments that changefrequently or involve large numbers of dependencies.

The second, and more favourable approach, is to automatically create dependencies on discovery. This requires a moresophisticated discovery tool but does not necessarily drive the up the price. A solution that’s dependency aware will solveall the monitoring problems faced. When monitoring system understands how a network is connected and thedependencies between devices on the network, it will put a halt to alarm storms.

The Angry Users Dragon
Every IT team experiences unplanned service interruptions. It could be the slowdown of a key application, an unexpectedoutage or even the result of a planned change. The measure of a good operations team, however, is how often they arereacting to versus proactively addressing performance issues. Users want IT teams that are already working on the problemwhen they call. The help desk that answers ‘yes we know and are already working on it’ instills confidence. End-users willremain satisfied longer into a prolonged issue as they understand some are more difficult to resolve than others. But, if youfirst learn there is a problem from a user’s complaint, it is more likely you will be perceived as taking too long to resolve theissue. The more often this is the case the lower the confidence in the IT team.

IT teams thatexperience alert storms frequently alsosuffer from alert fatigue. There areso many alarms going off they grownumb to the fact that some of themmay be big problems. By assuringyour network monitoring tool featuresautomatic discovery and mapping that isdependency-aware, you better equip yourteam to spot issues before the users call.
The Angry Users dragon feeds onIT teams that are always in reactivemode. If these teams also suffer fromdisjointed troubleshooting tools – theyconsider them a delicacy and oftenrelish in causing them immense agony.Angry Users dragons tend to multiply astroubleshooting times drag on without
a resolution often to the point of feedingfrenzy.

Slaying the Angry Users Dragon
Sounds scary, right? Well, the good news is that it isn’t that hard or expensive to protect yourself from the AngryUsers dragon. With the right tools in your arsenal, you will rarely even see them. This dragon is opportunistic and wouldrather feed on the weak than to take on a worthy adversary.

The favourite tools of expert Angry Users dragon slayers are proactive alerts, customizable dashboards and user-friendlydrill-downs to device detail. Look for a monitoring tool that gives you the ability to drill-down to quickly pinpoint rootcauses. You’ll want historical dashboards to identify trends and intermittent performance problems. You’ll also need theability to trigger scripts and embedded action to restart services and reboot network devices and services.
Basically, you want troubleshooting to be automated as much as possible and done the way you would do it.

The Lack of Visibility Dragon
Our final dragon is perhaps the deadliest of all. The Lack of Visibility dragon preys on IT teams that opted for ‘freeware’ and open source solutions to put together a hodge-podge of disparate tools. This dragon loves the confusion causedby attacking IT teams whose defences aren’t integrated. It delights in the pandemonium caused from everyone on thetriage team having a different view of the problem.
These teams end up getting multiple reports on why performance is poor—each report from a different system, and moreoften than not each one contradicting the other. It’s no wonder finding root cause is so elusive. When they can’t come upwith a single, accurate answer all your IT teams can agree on— the Lack of Visibility dragon rules.

Slaying the Lack of visibility Dragon
You should look for a monitoring tool thatprovides an integrated view of everything you needto manage. Whether that is switches and routers,virtual servers, wireless access devices, servers inthe cloud or applications – you can’t troubleshooteffectively unless you have the ability to see thingsin context.
Make sure you have a monitoring environmentthat allows you to see everything and miss nothing.Don’t let a vendor force you to rely on partialsolutions such as monitoring only a portion of thenetwork.