By Brendan Walsh, VP of Sales, APAC, Opengear
A primary function of the majority of businesses is to maximize revenue, while keeping associated operations under control. Today – for the majority of major businesses – IT services are no longer a “required” support function, but a critical business driver, instrumental to growth and business success. In our digitally enhanced world, understanding the impact of IT disruption and downtime not only helps prioritize steps to build network resilience, but also help justify future investment. Networks and related systems are the lifeblood of an organisation and our dependence on IT operations is therefore paramount to business continuity. Today, when IT stops, business stops. Disruption to the regular order of business can have a huge impact, even for seemingly small events.
As the Indian IT industry has become digitally mature and virtualized, the on-going migration to the cloud, the rise of connectivity and the emergence of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has become complicated and difficult to manage. With people continuing to work from home, the problem of remotely managing networks has become more widespread. When taken together, these developments make it more important that the network is kept up and running but also more likely that outages & network events will occur.
Organisations are also adding layers of complexity to networks which is making them more vulnerable to bugs and cyber-attacks. Notably, India witnessed 37% increase in cyberattacks in the first quarter (Q1) of 2020, as compared to the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2019. Today, we are seeing a raft of factors that can cause network or system outages – from ISP carrier issues, fiber cuts and misconfigurations, to simple human error. Added to this, network devices are becoming increasingly complex. That can make achieving robust network security more difficult.
Finding the right solution
In such scenarios, it is no longer sufficient simply to design a robust data center and rely on redundancy. The network is only as strong as its weakest point – and the proliferation of edge computing therefore requires a new way of thinking about and managing the network. A resilient network is vital to the success of almost every organisation; it is the ability to provide and maintain an acceptable level of service in the face of faults and challenges to normal operations. Whenever it is not available, productivity drops off, the business is financially impacted and its reputation suffers.
True network resilience cannot be achieved by providing resilience to one single piece of equipment, whether it is a core switch or a router. Instead, it is important that any solution for resilience can plug into all equipment at an edge site or data center, map what is there and establish what offline is and online at any time.
One priority must be ensuring that a business has visibility and the agility to pivot as and when problems occur. For instance, consider a large finance or healthcare enterprise with a network operations centre (NOC) that may require constant uptime for applications and customer service. They may well have several branch locations spread across the world with attendant time zone issues. As a result, they may struggle to get visibility that an outage has even happened because they are not proactively notified if something goes offline. Even when they are aware, it may be difficult to understand which piece of equipment at which location has a problem if nobody is on site to physically inspect.
Henceforth, it can be said that network downtime is a major issue for most large enterprises. Outages are prevalent and they cost businesses time, money and result in reputation loss. Yet, there is a lack of preventative planning, and businesses often spend significant sums getting the organization up and running again, not least in terms of getting engineers out to remote sites.
An Independent network management plane is the answer
A solution capable of operating independently from the main in-band network which not only provisions new devices, provide ongoing detection and remediation of network issues automatically but also provides secure remote emergency access is of huge value in this context. A strategy based on network resilience, supported by Smart Out-of-Band management, and within the context of a NetOps automation approach has to represent the best way forward. We call it the ‘Network for Network Engineers’.