|Network Management Zone|
Inventory and Topology Mapping: Visualizing the Chaos
You would think the IT folks would have a pretty good handle of their telecom assets and equipment. But in many cases, their infrastructure has grown past the chaos stage. Sheer volume of devices and applications require inventory and mapping tools to manage and control system environments.
Think of an inventory and topology mapping application as an Org Chart for your networking gear. One can see the spatial relationship of the device and their links, and see the status and performance of between them. Then the mapping can be traced back to the system engineer or operator who is responsible for them. As an audit feature, user actions are recorded with timestamps. One may think this is a bit of corporate Big Brother, but knowing who did what and when to a device is imperative in resolving issues, troubleshooting and keeping the network up.
Once inventory and mapping are known, decision-making processes flow more efficiently and improve operator productivity. The mechanics of the network management application is to perform a “Discovery" or a scan of the network elements and provide physical and logical links between devices. Discovery spans from Layer 2 to all the way up to discovery at applications layer. The common protocols for discovery are CDP, LLDP, PING, SNMP, TL1, CORBA for the infrastructure discovery and protocols like RMI, SOAP, REST etc., for the application discovery. It’s like a CAT Scan of your system environment. Once mapping is complete, many out-of-the-box metrics are available for current and historical trending performance. his is just another hammer in the network engineer’s toolbox to keep systems up and running. It also gives management a quick visual of the hot zones.
Many companies struggle to even get through the discovery phase. The environment is constantly changing. Engineers are pulled away to fight fires. End-users, internal or external, start pointing fingers and it becomes a pissing match. No one wins and it gets escalated to top management.
Even in mature organizations, there can be siloed systems that have been operating and working well for years. If there are truly no integration points or data sharing, then map it as its own entity. But a No Integration situation is a rarity. Data is useful or impacts other data. I have seen situations were integration is a bigger chore on the organizational process than the integration work itself. Sometimes management is even unaware problems exist. Without a mapping application, they are flying blind. People rely on what’s in their heads and when anyone leaves the company, a new level of chaos rises up.
Inventory discovery and mapping connections start a discipline that makes the operator staff accept a common data source. Since this data source is fluid, re-discovery can happen on a daily basis. It can be a real eye-opener. It’s a snapshot in time where leadership can act upon, prioritize tasks and assign the right people. If network or device changes are necessary, you can establish the process to get the right people to approve, assign the right people to perform, then see an audit if it needs to be revisited. Over time, it becomes routine and fire fighting is reduced. Granted, you will need to carry out some interventions, but organizational changes will work given a common data set. Knowledge is shared equally and the focus can be on the problem and less on the communications.
In today’s new cloud environment, it does not mean cloud assets need to be isolated. They can be part of hybrid inventory and mapping picture. CIOs may struggle with the idea of cloud infrastructure, but knowing what’s there and how it is performing bridges the confidence gap.
Eric Wegner is a 20-year veteran of the industry and has 10 years of experience with ZOHO Corp . (formerly AdventNet) working on large and complex network management infrastructures for network equipment manufacturers, service providers and military contractors. Eric joined the company as the first sales person and is now business development manager leading the WebNMS division in North America.