Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Taking Network Management Local to Enable REAL Automation

Despite decades of advancements in network speed, reach and security, the management of network devices is still a hands-on task. It involves reactive and often tedious actions open to human error.

Traditional Network Management tools rely on the network itself to manage critical devices. This dependence on the network to manage the network is a critical design flaw. It limits the levels of automation administrators are willing to apply and ensures that when problems occur, those management tools offer little value.

One strategy to solve this design flaw is to de-centralize the management of network devices by connecting directly to devices and create an alternate path or network-independent connection. This approach can eliminate the roadblock while increasing network reliably and security. Also, many of the routine administrative tasks that consume a large portion of time can be automated. This local management strategy can free up time and resources that could be spent on innovation and improvements, instead of just “keeping the lights on.”

This is just a preview of the Uplogix White Paper: Taking Network Management Local to Enable REAL Automation

Section headings include:
  • The NOC as You know it: Centralized Network Management Tools
  • The Requirements for De-centralizing Network Management
  • The Benefits of a Local Management Platform
  • Meeting the Increasing Demands on the Network

Download your copy of the white paper today.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Will Google drive your car before you automate network management?

The reason people don't trust network automation is that it relies on the network itself to manage the network. Like the sensors atop a driverless car with the processing and brains in the trunk, Uplogix deploys in the rack with network infrastructure for network-independent monitoring and management, and tighter security.

For years, the answer to troubleshooting a problem with a network device was for an administrator to break out a laptop or roll up a crash cart and connect directly over the console port. This removes any networking issues from the situation and allows the admin to work directly on the device. Would anybody by a car that was driven autonomously from the Cloud? Not likely—on the first dropped signal you might end up in a ditch. You want that data gathering and decision making local.

The challenge for implementing real automation using traditional network management tools is that since they are dependent on the network for polling devices and pushing commands, any disruption to the network could result in downtime. So, as time has gone on, centralized tools have grown really good at what they do, and left the rest to people.

This means that skilled IT personnel spend far too much time performing mundane, tedious and error-prone tasks. Gartner has stated for years that upwards of 80% of network outages is due to human and process errors. Just removing people from a fraction of these tasks has massive implications for improved SLAs and freeing up IT time. These cycles could be used for innovation and delivering on the expanding expectations for the networks of today and tomorrow.

Using console connections and onboard intelligence, Uplogix automates several key areas of network management including:
  • Automated Recovery | Based on high-resolution monitoring data, Local Managers can take automated responses to device issues, saving time and service calls. 
  • Mass OS Updates | Schedule once to update all similar devices on your network with the confidence of SurgicalRollback—letting you manage by exception, rather than touching each device one at a time. 
  • Integrated Out-of-Band | Using the most cost-effective source available at the location, Uplogix automatically creates an alternate pathway for technicians to access gear as if they were onsite. 

In most industries, automation is the norm. To find out more about how Uplogix is bringing reliable automation to network management, download the Network Automation Solution Brief.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Three ways that network management is like a horror movie

Network management is kind of like a horror movie. Go with me on this -- in a horror movie only a few hearty and clever survivors get to the see the sunrise, or the sequel. Network management has many hands-on components that tend to weed out those not able to remember an obscure command to get out of a tight jam or remember to make a copy before blowing away a configuration.

Here are three other ways that network management and horror movies a similar, and a few ways that Uplogix makes network management less scary:

If you get cut off from the others, you are as good as gone.

The hormonal teens that leave the group to go frolic down at the dock, the lonely kid that takes a shortcut through the woods on the way home... We all know they are the first to go. The lesson here is bad things happen when you get cut off from others.

In network management, it's that innocent change to an access control list and [play Psycho stabbing sound here] you are as good as dead when it comes to getting your job done. This one is pretty hard to avoid and most anyone that works with network gear has cut themselves off from gear they were working on at some point or another. If the gear is remote, you'll probably have to find some local help, or worse get in the car for an unexpected field trip. Sometimes neither is possible and you are really in a scary situation.

Don't feel bad, analysts say upwards of 60-percent of network downtime is caused by human error during device configuration. So besides not taking a dip in the creepy, foggy lake at night or avoiding device changes because you fear network gremlins, you might consider Uplogix.

One feature for saving you from this particular horror is called SurgicalRollback. If a configuration change fails, Uplogix immediately rolls the device back to the last known good configuration using the unique SurgicalRollback™ feature, minimizing downtime. This process restores the device to working order without affecting other device operation.

All the action happens at night.

No horror movie takes place in mid-morning, amid the dew and yellow sunshine. Scary monsters and the undead always show up at night while the innocents are sleeping. It's the same witching hours that are devoted to service windows. While your customers are sleeping peacefully in their warm beds, you are pounding the caffeine to stay awake as if Freddie will show up in your dreams and crash your network.

But you have to make network changes when they won't impact anyone. Right? Generally that is the case, but with network automation that you can apply with confidence, you too can sleep at night instead of working the graveyard shift.

Mass configuration changes can be scheduled in the Uplogix Control Center and executed consistently by the Uplogix Local Managers as batches, rather than an administrator updating each router, switch or server one by one. Again, with SurgicalRollback™, changes can be pushed automatically with the confidence that any devices with failed changes will automatically be rolled back to the previous working state, restoring the network. Wake up refreshed and manage by exception—addressing any problem devices one at a time instead of ALL your devices individually.

Early warning signs are not heeded.

In the movies, the storm clouds gather, lights flicker and car engines die on lonely roads. The audience knows what is happening, and yet the folks in the horror movie go about their routine oblivious to the fact that their end is near.

In networking it's about knowing what's going on with your gear. If you are using SNMP to poll devices every 15 minutes (or more) a lot can happen during that time. AND, once something happens to your network, it becomes about as useless as lead bullets when you are dealing with a vampire.

What you need is high-resolution monitoring that takes place out-of-band so it's independent of the network. Uplogix connects over the console port, like an onsite technician, to gather more data, more frequently and to enable real decisions and automated problem resolution.

How to survive?

In horror movies, it's not that easy. Luckily, surviving the see the sunrise in networking is more likely—especially if you have Uplogix as your magic bullet. With persistent connectivity over a variety of out-of-band options, you are always connected to gear wherever it may be. Reliable automation for pushing configuration changes backed up with the ability to automatically roll-back to previous working configurations helps ensure that you don't have to rise with the bats for updates. Finally, network-independent direct connections to gear ensures that you have an exact picture of device health, making zombie devices a thing of the past. So stay with the group, don't manage the network over the network, and you might just make it to see another day.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Soccer bigger network drain than Olympics or March Madness

A survey conducted during the Group Stage of this year's soccer World Cup of over 200 IT admins and network managers in the United States showed the impact of "the beautiful game" on US business networks.

Seventy-percent of those surveyed said that employees streaming games in the office in the office was having an adverse effect on network performance and/or business operations. Of the only 52-percent that admitted to having a proactive plan in place to deal with the spike in bandwidth, the most common steps taken were:
  • 71% | Set threshold alarms
  • 59% | Monitor top applications
  • 56% | Blocked certain websites
  • 44% | Monitor bandwidth by user or device
  • 32% | Encourage employees to use one central location/device for streaming, such as a conference room
Why were so many caught without a plan for the World Cup network demands? Probably because only 45% of the surveyed IT professionals admitted to personally following the games. Next time they'll be following – maybe still not watching in front of the screen, but from their network dashboard.

Uplogix has service level verification functionality that could help your World Cup viewership in your office. Since Local Managers sit in the same physical location as your other network gear, Uplogix can generate synthetic calls and transactions between other Local Managers on your network. This generates a wealth of actionable data that can feed automated actions based on your run book. 

For more, check out this Uplogix Tech Tip on Service Level Verification: