3 Steps to Boost Network Observability and Put an End to Reactive IT


3 Steps to Boost Network Observability and Put an End to Reactive IT

Sep 29, 2021

The need for broad observability across the network is growing as organizations—their work groups, end user requirements, applications, devices and infrastructure—become more complex. Fortunately, developing observability delivers vast benefits in the face of increasingly intricate and diverse network architectures. Among them is the ability for enterprises to finally transition their IT operations toward more proactive work and away from inefficient (and often ineffective) reactive tasks.

The pitfalls of being stuck in reactive mode

An IT organization can find itself firefighting for a number of reasons. In many cases, the enterprise may have a few visibility tools in place but they don’t provide enough insight and the team is left to rely on end users to alert them to problems. Or the department may have a variety of tools but the alert cycle—from receiving it to checking it to correlating it across multiple systems to figuring out what the alert is actually trying to tell you—is still too slow to enable more proactive actions.

In both scenarios, the result is continued complaints and little progress in resolving issues before they impact network performance or the user experience. And with traditional polling occurring on timed intervals, you need to catch things at the right time to have any hope of acting on them before the calls start coming in.

Then there’s identifying what an alert really means.

  • Is a device down or is the link experiencing local trouble?
  • Are connection issues tied to upstream hardware or software?
  • Is it a carrier-side disruption?

With many alerting platforms providing scant information in the initial trouble definition, IT must spend time tracking down the details before any resolution steps can be implemented. This pushes MTTR out further and consumes more internal resources.

What you need is an end-to-end view of the ecosystem that delivers a highly correlated and enriched incident definition.

The right level of data and detail enables you to quickly gather information from multiple places in the network stack and know precisely what the issue is and where its festering.

Three steps to move IT from reactive to proactive

Transitioning from a reactive stance, where you wait for end users to alert you to problems, to a proactive strategy that has you in front of potential problems, is largely built around the right platforms and technologies. A fully featured tool set delivers the information you need to stay ahead of network performance issues and other disruptions.

Step 1: Get the data

Network monitoring platforms that enable observability from multiple paths are important. You cant gather data from a single place and hope to have the actionable insight you need. Instead, IT should focus on expanding the horizon to include ingesting SNMP, rest APIs, web hooks that push information and streaming data from logs. With an array of data available at your fingertips, you’ll be well positioned to move toward proactive management of your network.

Step 2: Correlate and enrich your data

You can’t simply send all that data to your NOC technicians—it would be information overload. Instead, you need to operationalize it, and that’s accomplished by flowing it into an AIOps layer. By applying AIOps to those data streams, you can run correlation, find patterns and enrich the information on the underlying configuration management database (CMDB). With a good understanding of the network architecture—not just from a human perspective but also at the tooling level—you can make better use of the data available and act on it more knowledgeably.

Step 3: Turn your data into actionable insights

Now the data needs to be made presentable (and actionable) at a human level. Once it’s correlated and enriched from the CMDB, you can package it and deliver it to your NOC technicians in a way they can act upon it. But they still need to know what to do.

That’s where a good depth of runbook analysis comes in.

  • Does your organization have the right runbooks for every scenario?
  • Is the right knowledgebase easily accessible to the team?
  • Are there other resources IT needs to quickly take the appropriate action?

Targeted investment in people and training, along with understanding the necessary documentation and knowledgebase, is key. The IT organization needs developed standards, the ability to triage and access to runbooks to be truly proactive.

With these three steps, you can move into the new paradigm of observability and build a proactive strategy. You’ll have unified metrics and the ability to conduct analyses across the entire network stack. The IT team can view an incident with enriched context, delivering more clarity around issues that are happening and where they’re occurring. Alerts will finally present a host of actionable information, enabling your team to proactively address incidents and ultimately reduce MTTR.

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