What is network operations all about?

An entire organization relies on an IT network to generate its revenue, but what if the network doesn't depend on manual intervention to execute its functions? This sounds like an interesting proposition, and that is exactly what network automation offers. Network operations, also known as NetOps 1.0, is a term that encompasses the traditional network management methods which didn't have the luxury of being automated. This modus operandi, however, was the most feasible when the imperative was only to maintain on-premises hardware with minimal downtime.

How did NetOps 1.0 fare?

NetOps 1.0 was completely dependent on CLI scripts to execute and deploy network tasks. The CLI is an interface that is purely text-based. It's used to change the configurations of a network and also to extract information from the devices and interfaces in the network. CLI scripts are commonly stored as CSV files; these scripts are used to troubleshoot networks by entering a command into the CLI, which interacts with the shell of the system. This is a tedious task, and the whole process of network management is also reactive in nature, which increases the complexity of hardware-oriented networks. The need for another sustainable network management model emerged when the focus shifted from the technology employed to the need to have an agile business model. This required a change in the way IT operations teams and development teams interacted to deploy applications. The integration of DevOps with NetOps 1.0 gave rise to the current model that is favored by IT departments distributed across the globe.

NetOps 2.0

Today, network operations is all about NetOps 2.0, which aims to eliminate all the root causes of network downfalls. NetOps aims to bring automation and agility to network operations by aligning with the core principles of DevOps. With the combination of artificial intelligence and machine learning, it is now possible to group repetitive network monitoring processes, and the data collected from these automated processes is used in making the whole NetOps process data-driven. Strong parallels are drawn between DevOps and NetOps because both practices share the traits of observability and automation. Modern, distributed hybrid networks are far more complicated than traditional networks. The updated version of NetOps strongly requires the assistance of a network monitoring tool that can provide deep visibility into the status of the network and preempt any issues that may affect it.

Problems that can affect the network

  • Abnormally high memory utilization: Distributed networks consist of several devices, and unless all the devices are in the perfect state, the network cannot run optimally. Bugs can exhaust the memory available in a device and cause it to reboot, leading to dependent devices and applications halting their services. The same situation can arise when a large flow of data packets moves through a slow interface, which causes the packets to queue and consumes precious CPU memory.
  • Internet traffic congestion: Malware can take hold of a network and cripple it by flooding it with spam messages. This drains server resources, leading to overutilization and internet traffic congestion.
  • Route flapping: This can be caused by hardware or configuration errors within the network, resulting in the router alternately declaring a network destination availability as up or down. This degrades the performance of the applications running in the network because the data packets take unsuitable paths to reach their destination, which may even lead to a situation where the packets are lost.
  • Bad VoIP quality: Jitter, latency, and packet loss in the network caused by excessive bandwidth usage can be detrimental to the quality of voice calls made over a network.
  • Improper firewall rule sets: Firewall rules should regularly be modified, because multiple rule sets within the firewall may contradict what goes against the organization's traffic filtering policies.
  • Failure to update configuration changes: Business organizations must strictly adhere to SLAs, which are a consolidation of various technical definitions with specific quantifiers associated with each definition. Any changes in the SLAs need to be updated immediately; if not, compliance rules will be violated, burdening the organization with financial liabilities.
  • Duplex mismatch: Duplex is the name for a communication system between two points where both points can act as both the source and the destination. Duplex systems are again classified into semi-duplex and wholly duplex. If the duplex modes for two connected devices are different, a duplex mismatch ensues, leaving behind an inefficient communication link.

What to expect from a sound NetOps strategy

NetOps 2.0 is categorically suitable for networks that intend to be agile, scalable, and programmable. These three core values of networking come together in the form of NetOps 2.0, which facilitates virtualization, automation, seamless API integrations, and simultaneously deploying and monitoring security operations that can identify and eliminate threats that may intrude into the network and affect its operations. The departure from the rigid and static nature of traditional network monitoring has been fueled by NetOps 2.0 and, in the process, it has laid the emphasis on proactive monitoring and providing high visibility into dynamic environments. The key benefits of NetOps are:

  • Maximum utilization of network resources: When all the devices and interfaces in a network are observed efficiently, all the potential downfalls that can affect the network can be forecasted and steps can be automatically taken to prevent them, thus securing a healthy network uptime.
  • Agility: Similar to faster development and deployments in the DevOps cycle, NetOps increases the velocity at which updates and fixes are made in a network, with data analytics providing a helping hand.
  • Resilience: Key resilience metrics are identified beforehand and are applied to services that need to be protected in case a fault occurs (e.g., security misconfigurations that occur during network troubleshooting).

OpManager Plus: An observability-enabled tool that aligns with NetOps 2.0

OpManager Plus enables you to get deep visibility into your network with a wide range of features which can eliminate manual and redundant processes. OpManager Plus is a pragmatic observability solution that enables you to:

  • Monitor your network's bandwidth usage and get reports on which applications are draining your bandwidth. This prevents crucial applications running on your network from stopping.Learn more
  • Track data packets. These packets take network paths based on the results generated by the shortest path finder algorithm, which is employed by the Open Shortest Path First protocol. Look out for broken channels between source and destination to prevent data loss with network path analysis.Learn more
  • Measure the quality of VoIP by analyzing packet loss, jitter, and latency over the network, ensuring that the quality of service for important business applications isn't compromised in the long run.Learn more
  • Periodically assess your firewall rules to ensure compliance with policies and also to prevent blocking legitimate traffic. Learn more
  • Configure devices and interfaces as a precursor to all monitoring activities. Configuration monitoring is a must to ensure that all saved configurations meet organizational policies.Learn more
  • Detect rogue devices. All rogue devices in the network will be listed in OpManager Plus, and the administrator can assign a role to a device according to its status. The administrator also decides whether to move the device to the list of monitored devices or not. Learn more

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