Network Management: IBM Supports Devices
on IP and non-IP Networks

Network Management: IBM Supports Devices on IP and non-IP Networks

Cloud & smarter Infrastructure Weekly. An IBM service management perspective.It's an interesting time for communications service providers (CSPs), carriers, and cable operators. As new technologies have been deployed (such as 4G Long Term Evolution and optical transport networks) and new endpoints have become dramatically more feature-rich (such as smart phones and tablets), new services can be, and are, rolled out to take advantage of all the new possibilities.

Where only a decade ago it would have been unimaginable to watch streaming video on a cell phone, for instance, such a thing is commonplace today. Innovation of the underlying technology has thus led rapidly to innovation in services, and both the telecommunications organizations and their customers have benefited.

Along with all that compelling new innovation, however, have come many formidable new challenges. Networks have become more diverse; they involve more elements, and can experience performance shortfalls or outages for a much greater number of possible root causes. Meanwhile, legacy troubleshooting methods and management solutions may no longer suffice, because they only apply to a fraction of the total logical or physical network. Thus, to solve any given problem, it might be that several different solutions must be utilized. This fragmentation can lead to an unacceptably long mean time to repair (MTTR) for emerging technical issues.

And CSPs that struggle to resolve such issues swiftly and effectively may have trouble retaining their customers, let alone growing the customer base.

IBM Tivoli Network Manager: All the insight you need, in the detail you want, right at your fingertips

Because Tivoli Network Manager integrates with other, related members of the IBM Service Assurance, Cloud and Smarter Infrastructure portfolio, the total value it creates can easily be multiplied, extending its insight and capabilities in as many directions as the organization requires.

For CSPs, carriers, and cable operators in this situation, IBM offers a powerful management solution: IBM Tivoli Network Manager. This offering provides extensive discovery, visualization/topology, monitoring, and troubleshooting capabilities capable of improving the uptime and performance of services running on even the most complex networks—quickly, and at relatively low cost.

Furthermore, these capabilities now support a broader range of network types, and network logical layers, than ever before. And because Tivoli Network Manager integrates with other, related members of the IBM Service Assurance, Cloud and Smarter Infrastructure portfolio, the total value it creates can easily be multiplied, extending its insight and capabilities in as many directions as the organization requires.

Exceptionally complete support of logical and physical network complexity

Imagine that instead of having to rely on the management capabilities of different solutions for different aspects of a complex network, a single solution could be used instead. The benefits would be substantial—faster comprehension of technical dynamics, faster root-cause isolation, a smaller business impact for technical problems on average, and thus higher customer satisfaction and retention.

It was with exactly this premise in mind that Tivoli Network Manager was recently revised. It now supports not just the logical layers 2 and 3 of IP networks, but also non-IP layer 1 optical transport, longhaul and backhaul, as well as 2G and 3G wireless networks. Furthermore, it works with the devices that comprise those networks, at every stage along the way.

How many total network devices can a single instance of the solution support? The answer: hundreds of thousands, ranging from servers to routers to switches to cards to ports on the cards. That's what makes Tivoli Network Manager a genuinely end-to-end, unified management solution, well suited to the needs of virtually any CSP or carrier, no matter what kind of network it utilizes, or what technologies comprise it. This solution can provide traditional network management capabilities into technical domains where, in the past, they haven't been available, such as next-generation wireless networks.

Auto-discovery, a smart and accurate topology, and a fast response to emerging problems

Of course, before problem resolution can take place, it's essential that the solution be able to assess the network, and determine the technologies that make it up. This function, discovery, happens automatically.

On deployment, Tivoli Network Manager reaches through the network, establishing not just the network elements it discovers (at layers 1, 2, and 3), but also the network protocols involved—both wired and wireless. This information forms a logical map—and because that map is in a constant stage of change, discovery is an ongoing process, and the map is constantly updated. As new elements are added, or old elements change, those modifications will automatically be discovered and incorporated.

Furthermore, the map is depicted, for network manager convenience, as an overhead topology. This topology provides an intuitive way of visualizing exactly what is on the network, where, as well as where service performance is satisfactory, and where issues are emerging.

To help resolve issues, the topology includes contextual menus that can be used to reveal the specifics of the network at any given point or level of abstraction (for both physical and logical devices). This means that, in many cases, problems can actually be resolved automatically, instead of manually. For instance, technical events can be correlated with the topology in logical ways—filtering out information that isn't likely to be relevant in favor of information that almost certainly is. This empowers managers to zero in on a problematic area in increasing detail, drilling down to the root cause to spur a fast and effective fix.

Furthermore, everyday troubleshooting commands can be executed for multiple devices, at multiple points on the topology, using a single mouse click. (The power of this feature can be expanded even further through extending it to third-party solutions in some cases.) This, too, helps speed MTTR, keeping the total impact of issues to a minimum—ideally such a small minimum that end users never even notice a problem existed at all.

Integrate with complementary IBM offerings for even more complete and powerful network management

While IBM Tivoli Network Manager is a comprehensive, end-to-end management solution, it's possible to leverage its insight and capabilities in a broader sense—by integrating it with related management solutions that support other business functions.

One example would be IBM Tivoli Netcool/OMNIbus. This smart, unusually scalable offering aggregates and analyzes network events from an incredibly broad number of devices (of which network devices are only one instance), and can thus support architectures and initiatives in a similarly broad sense—everything from mobile computing to cloud management to everyday business applications. Tivoli Network Manager can become one of the many sources of data that Netcool/OMNIbus accesses, leveraging its network information in many new ways.

Similarly powerful: IBM Tivoli Netcool Configuration Manager, which optimizes the process of changing device configurations by using standard templates that can be applied, modified, or rolled back to earlier versions for any given device. As a result, it's much easier to reduce the odds that a given change will yield an unwanted (and suboptimal) outcome—or put things back the way they were before, if a change turns out to be a change for the worse. Integration with IBM Tivoli Network Manager means that configuration changes to the CSP network will take into account the current status of that network, as determined by the updated topology—meaning only the right devices are updated, in the right ways.

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