IBM Unifies and Optimizes Network Management

To get higher value from business services, enhance the network that delivers them

Tivoli Beat. A weekly IBM service management perspective.

Today's world is increasingly interconnected—and when those connections fail, even for a short period of time, the consequences can be tremendous. That's why going forward, organizations will have to develop new strategies of network management.

Estimates are that eight zettabytes of digital content will be created by 2015. And it’s a safe bet that people will need continuous access to that content, anywhere they go, using any device, for both consumer and business purposes. Any organization interested in leveraging the power of big data analytics, for instance, will need the most reliable, high-performance access to data repositories to make that happen.

Here’s another familiar example: business utilization of mobile devices. Smart phones and tablets represent a convenient front end for an organization's IT services... yet they also involve a long chain of network resources and elements, some of which are owned and managed by a third-party carrier.

For the carrier, that means an increasing need to achieve and sustain extremely high network availability, despite the fact that the network is getting more complex by the day. And for the organization, similarly, that means taking steps to ensure its own network infrastructure performs as well as possible. In both cases, next-generation network management is taking on a new importance that must be acknowledged and addressed.

But maximizing network availability and performance is getting harder and harder to achieve for a number of reasons:

For these reasons, it's important not just that network management become more capable, but also more unified. Ideally, it would be possible to oversee an entire network infrastructure from a single point of control for exceptionally fast analysis and response in time of need—or even proactively anticipate problems that haven't occurred yet, and prevent them from taking place.

IBM Netcool Network Management helps you maximize the uptime and performance of your network, end to end

No company is better positioned to make that happen than IBM—the number one market leader worldwide in the service assurance space going back many years now. And IBM's latest network management offering, IBM Netcool Network Management, can help organizations achieve all of these goals, and many more besides.

"IBM Netcool Network Management allows organizations to define once, in a template, how assets should be configured, then reuse that template as many times as necessary. Inadvertent manual errors thus become a thing of the past."

This offering builds on IBM's long history in network management problem resolution via new capabilities, informed by proven best practices, to put everything network managers need under a single pane of glass. It thus simplifies and accelerates the daunting task of managing a network for best business results—even an exceptionally large and complex network, such as enterprise-class companies must maintain.

Via IBM Netcool Network Management, organizations can spend less time recovering from bottlenecks and outages, and more time leveraging the network as a resilient resource that generates an ever-increasing array of business benefits.

Visibility: See what's happening, as it's happening, in the detail you need

One of the most basic challenges of network management is determining, with clarity, what's going on—and what needs to be done as a result.

For instance, to maximize network performance, it's certainly essential to establish the logical elements a network consists of. But as organizations rely on networks for more and more functionality, those networks are becoming more and more complex—and in some cases, such as carrier networks, network elements aren't even constant from minute to minute.

IBM Netcool Network Management helps by automatically and continually discovering network elements across the full infrastructure. Then, to help network administrators, it generates a logical topology map that depicts that infrastructure. And if administrators need more detail about a given subset of the network, the solution can drill down with as much granularity as required.

Visualization and asset monitoring capabilities are also included—and they span what had been separate tools and information classes, bringing them together in a centralized way. Instead of having to navigate through 10 or more different tools, managers can rely primarily on one. This delivers a much more agile response to changing conditions.

And that response is more informed and effective than ever before. This is because IBM Netcool Network Management supports smart root-cause analysis, that can pinpoint the logical basis of degraded performance and empower teams to solve the problem rapidly and completely. And because it detects and filters out routine network events that don't require a response—the large majority, in most cases—IT can spend much more time on the events that really can affect the business.

Control: Take the right steps to resolve or preclude network issues

Studies have suggested network outages often stem from the way a key network asset such as a switch or router was misconfigured manually—a problem that can now often be avoided entirely. That's because IBM Netcool Network Management allows organizations to define once, in a template, how assets should be configured, then reuse that template as many times as necessary. Inadvertent manual errors thus become a thing of the past.

Security is another, related issue. If a network's total configuration is continually in a state of flux, how is its security posture changing as a result, and what should be done to make it as secure as possible?

IBM Netcool Network Management answers these questions by comparing configuration changes against security best practices, industry standards, and in-house protocols, determining when a violation has occurred and what its business/compliance impact is likely to be—even before that change is made. So organizations can accurately project whether a given change will do more harm than good, and avoid it.

Automation: Add new intelligence to the infrastructure—and make it partially self-healing

How fast can your IT infrastructure scale to new network demands?

For customer-facing services, rapid, efficient network provisioning can mean the difference between success and failure. IBM Netcool Network Management makes that scaling process incredibly rapid by automating the provisioning process—a strength particularly well suited to advanced cloud architectures, which leverage automation at an unusually deep level.

Automation also comes into play in the way this solution helps accelerate processes, and minimize human intervention, in different contexts. For instance, it supports automatic cross-domain information exchange with related domains, such as trouble-ticket systems. This way, information coming from point A (a user with a problem) makes it to point B (the team that needs that information to solve the problem) in less time, while generating lower labor costs.

Finally, many forms of remediation are also supported through automation. Not only can IBM Netcool Network Management back up and restore network configuration changes on demand—helpful if a recent change appears to be the root cause of a problem—it can also execute corrective action via a prioritized queue. This way, the highest-priority problems that demand the fastest response will be solved first, minimizing the total impact on the business while maximizing user satisfaction levels.

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