The Maturity Model for Network & Infrastructure Monitoring

Enterprises worldwide are embracing digital transformation to boost their competitiveness. By using digital technologies to power reinvented business processes, they are achieving big gains in operational agility and efficiency.

Changes of this magnitude are never easy, and digital transformations are no exception. One reason they are so challenging is that they involve making fundamental changes to how enterprises conduct businesses, putting unfamiliar digital technologies at the heart of their operations.

Then there is the complexity of the technologies involved, such as software-defined networks, software-defined WANs, and campus wide deployments of high speed Wi-Fi. For enterprises that deploy them, these highly dynamic technologies create entirely new and very difficult network and infrastructure management challenges.

For their digital transformations to succeed, enterprises must solve these challenges. To do so, organizations must understand the
maturity of their network and infrastructure management capabilities.

To help enterprises make this assessment, SevOne offers this Maturity Model for Network & Infrastructure Management. By defining four distinct levels of maturity, this model provides a yardstick against which enterprises can compare their present status. It also offers suggestions for how organizations can improve their functional maturity in these areas.

Successful digital transformations don’t happen overnight. They are journeys that require retooling and making incremental improvements over time. The intent of this paper is to help enterprises to begin and then successfully navigate key parts of that process.

Introduction

Industry watchers are seeing growing market momentum with digital transformation. In a recent report from Forbes, for example, 85% of the global IT executives surveyed said they planned to spend up to 25% of their total budgets on digital transformation in 2018.

This momentum was also reflected in a recent Gartner report on network automation tools (which Gartner defines as systems that automate the visibility, troubleshooting, reporting and maintenance of virtual and physical network devices). Among responding executives and managers, 49% said network automation was the most strategic networking investment they had planned for 2018. The report also predicted that by 2021, 45% of all organizations will be using productized network automation tools.

The key take-away here is that digital transformation is underway and gaining steam across industry sectors. Organizations that embrace thismchange will have the advantage, while those that lag behind will be putting their competitive positions at risk. For this reason, enterprises should at least begin planning their own digital transformations without delay.

Getting Started: What to Assess

The maturity of IT and network operations (NetOps) teams varies widely today, even among large organizations. At enterprises where these functions are immature, their teams spend most of their time reacting to one major problem after another. At the other end of the spectrum are organizations in which these functions are more mature. Those organizations typically have
much greater control over IT service assurance, which allows their IT and NetOps teams to be more focused on and responsive to the needs of the business.

Where enterprises fall on this continuum is indicated by their maturity in three areas: technology, processes, and culture. To improve the maturity of their network and infrastructure management functions, enterprises must improve in three areas:

Technology
  • Management tools currently in use
  • Integration of tools within the IT and NetOps silos
  • Integration of tools across all IT silos
  • Technologies supported by tools
Processes
  • Processes for using those tools
  • Processes for collaboration within IT and NetOps
  • Processes for collaboration across IT and the business
Culture
  • How do IT and NetOps teams define success?
  • How does IT and NetOps view the broader technology organization?
  • How do IT and NetOps teams view line-of-business areas?

Digital Technologies Drive Need for Improved Maturity

A recent research report from Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) underscores that fact that the maturity of IT and NetOps functions is more essential to enterprises’ success than ever before. The report, entitled Network Management Megatrends 2018, cites the prevalence of new digital technologies powering initiatives that are currently driving enterprise IT and NetOps teams.

The report delineates these technologies and the percentages of enterprises reporting active projects with them. Findings include:

  • Software-defined datacenters (SDDC) – 37%
  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service clouds (IaaS) – 35%
  • Private clouds – 35%
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – 32%
  • Internet of Things (IoT) – 30%
  • Mobility – (25%)

The Maturity Model: Supporting New Network and Infrastructure Paradigms

As the complexity of applications and networking technologies continues to advance rapidly, monitoring them effectively has become increasingly difficult. These new environments feature physical and virtual components from multiple vendors, and resources being dynamically spun up and down on demand and in near real-time. Gathering, processing, and producing
useful insights from all this performance and management data—and doing it in time to be useful—requires equally responsive, scalable and agnostic monitoring and management ‘chops.’

Vendor- and product-specific element management systems, and legacy (hardware-centric) network management systems (NMS) were not designed to handle today’s job. They were fine back when network and infrastructure management meant something else. Trouble is, the requirements have changed radically, and these systems simply can no longer keep up.

Enterprises must address the growing gap between their networking power and dexterity, and their ability to watch, understand, and rapidly respond to activities in their environments. The goal of the SevOne Maturity Model for Network & Infrastructure Management is to help enterprises make changes and improvements to close this gap.

To improve performance management in these complex environments, it helps to break down individual tasks into distinct goals, functionalities and capabilities. The Maturity Model for Network & Infrastructure Management describes the stages of controlled monitoring required to track, report, react to and resolve network and infrastructure performance elements comprehensively, regardless of the complexity of the network.

The Maturity Model helps:

  • Reduce risk by closing visibility gaps
  • Create stronger control of network and infrastructure performance
  • Increase IT and NetOps teams’ efficiency and reduce human errors
  • Decrease CAPEX and OPEX costs
  • Lower the impact of performance issues on users and customers
  • Reduce customer churn

This paper provides an overview of the Maturity Model for Network & Infrastructure Management, detailing four distinct levels and the benefits of advancing through them. It also discusses the drawbacks and risks of leaving performance management to basic tools. Overall, it lays out a path that enterprises and service providers can follow to reach a state of optimized service delivery.

The Maturity Model's Four Levels

Starting with unwieldy toolsets and limited visibility at Level One, and proceeding through the higher levels, the Maturity Model describes the characteristics, advances, and capabilities of each stage.

Enterprises and service providers starting down the digital transformation path should use this model to help them:

  • Think about their network and infrastructure management capabilities,
  • Assess their present functional capabilities according to this model,
  • Prioritize changes and upgrades they need to make to advance to the
    next level, and
  • Plan for continued improvements to enable steady, upward progress
    through to Level Four.

What’s at stake for organizations that overlook or put off making these changes? Simply put, they will be put the success of their digital transformation initiatives at risk, and all the competitive issues and business challenges such failures would bring. A smarter, more viable strategy is to plan for and start making these critical changes. Helping enterprises and services providers to do that is the intent of this model. Following are the Levels, along with suggestions for advancing through them.

Level 1: Reactive Management

At Level One, IT and NetOps teams generally act as firefighters who daily move from one crisis to the next. Their processes are built around forwarding or escalating problems to individuals who specialize in the relevant areas. They are always playing catch up, however, because their management systems do not offer real-time views of network activity. Their systems give them only rearview-mirror looks at performance and availability with historical and forensic data.

Teams at this level often build out capabilities beyond the inadequate, element management systems provided by their hardware vendors, and implement point solutions to fix specific problems. Doing so increases both OpEx and CapEx costs without delivering what they really need: real-time network and infrastructure visibility. Without the ability to see and understand what’s happening at present, these teams are always operating at a major disadvantage.

Infrastructure visibility may now reach the halfway mark, but that leaves the other half of the environment in the dark. Device polling cycles may go from five-minute down to one-minute intervals when needed. However, performance data is still averaged over time, the low granularity of which negatively impacts a range of functions, such as capacity planning.

Ways to move to Level Two:

  • Baseline all metrics and trigger alerts when deviations from normal
    performance occur.
  • Correlate performance metrics with flow data to better understand
    consumption of resources.
  • Build up interoperability and automation by integrating monitoring
    and management functions with help desk/IT service management
    (ITSM) systems.

Level 2: Proactive Management

Enterprises and service provider organizations at Level Two have in place a single, unified and scalable, management platform. According to observations by SevOne’s field personnel, these teams generally have visibility into more than half of their end-to-end infrastructures. Many of these teams also have plans to use their platforms to help them transition to more real-time monitoring capabilities and are making progress on a project-by-project basis. This enables IT and NetOps teams to create consolidated metrics for key performance indicator (KPI) monitoring. With end-to-end testing, teams get clear indications of the health of the services being provided.

Thanks to these improved monitoring capabilities, organizations at Level Two begin to see measurable, positive changes. Costs start to decrease, staff time begins to get freed up, and a single source of truth about the infrastructure’s performance emerges.

At this stage, there’s end-to-end visibility of network, compute and storage resources by business unit or customer. Although teams can view both physical and virtual resources on a ‘single pane of glass,’ most infrastructure monitoring is still domain-specific. Infrastructure is well-defined, but services are not. That means IT and NetOps teams usually can restore infrastructure quickly, but it takes them longer to bring business services back online. Reporting is easier, and ad hoc or custom reports can be created on-the-fly because (thanks to the management platform) they derive from a real-time, single source of truth.

At Level Two, the majority of infrastructure management is done without the need for agents or probes, significantly decreasing administrative burden. Also, at this stage there is integration with ITSM solutions, such as ServiceNow and Remedy. This facilitates smooth transfers of information between platforms, which in turn, drive faster issue resolution.

There is, however, still room for improvement at this level. For forecast needs and capacity planning, staff typically still gather data from several sources and manually enter it into spreadsheets. The ability to scale to current monitoring demands has greatly improved, but at a cost (for gear such as high-end servers, data collectors and centralized database resources).

In general, Level Two involves conditions that are normalized across the infrastructure. IT and NetOps teams at this level of functional maturity are able to be more proactive because they have greater visibility into and control over their networks and infrastructures.

Ways to move to Level Three:

  • Incorporate visibility of applications and service delivery as opposed
    to monitoring only individual infrastructure components.
  • Link alerts to log analysis to enable identification of unique logs or
    trending conditions.
  • Define, monitor and alert on custom KPIs that do not exist in the MIBs
    of monitored devices.
  • Leverage streaming network telemetry for down to one second
    granularity of performance data

Level 3: Service-Oriented Management

The characteristic that distinguishes organizations at Level Three is that their IT and NetOps teams function as internal service providers. This service orientation is enabled by monitoring and management tools that have been chosen strategically rather than on a reactive basis. Those tools have been combined to create a single, cohesive platform.

The most popular approach to the network tools integration that is the hallmark of Level Three is implementing a fully integrated, multi-function platform.

This was highlighted in EMA’s Megatrends report in which 34% of respondents said they have embraced this approach. And according to EMA, the systems most popular among network managers for integration include:

  • IT orchestration (37%)
  • Security monitoring (33%)
  • Advanced IT analytics (33%)
  • ITSM/ticketing (30%)
  • Virtual systems management (29%)

This was highlighted in EMA’s Megatrends report in which 34% of respondents said they have embraced this approach. And according to EMA, the systems most popular among network managers for integration include:

  • IT orchestration (37%)
  • Security monitoring (33%)
  • Advanced IT analytics (33%)
  • ITSM/ticketing (30%)
  • Virtual systems management (29%)

In organizations that have achieved this level, SevOne field personnel have heard from their IT and NetOps teams that they have good visibility into their infrastructures—often estimated in the 80-90% range. Many of these teams have also integrated a variety of operational and support systems into their infrastructures. Service-level views and cross-platform processes ensure that
reliable metrics are being used in business decision-making. This enhanced visibility unlocks other capabilities, including:

  • Application- and service-delivery views of performance rather than just
    component monitoring
  • Begin to leverage streaming network telemetry with granular insight for faster
    and more accurate troubleshooting and more precise capacity planning
  • Significant reductions in MTTR and less staff time spent on troubleshooting
    and issue resolution
  • Automated discovery of L2 and L3 topologies, and real-time views of status
    and SLA instrumentation, including packet loss, jitter and congestion
  • Log analyses trigger alerts, working with accurate baselines and thresholds
  • Single clicks get staff from metrics to flows to logs within the same interface
  • Most issues are proactively resolved before impacting users or customers
  • Capacity planning and trending can be performed in a single place

Organizations know what’s happening on the network, where it’s happening, and when it’s happening—end to end. IT and NetOps strategy and operations have been streamlined and is now proactive. Visualization and analytics and capture and define business impacts of IT. Workflows become more automated, documented to capture best practices. Silos dissolve in favor of total infrastructure management with interdependencies well-understood.

Another characteristic of organizations at this level of maturity, is that their IT and NetOps teams collaborate with peers in other groups more often. EMA’s Megatrends report identified the groups with whom IT and NetOps teams are increasing collaboration:

  • IT security (42%)
  • Data center ops (38%)
  • IT analytics (38%)
  • IT executive suite (34%)

Empowered by strong monitoring made possible by unified platforms, accurate and trustworthy metrics, and highly informed strategic planning, the service-centric organization emerges as liaison to the business side. The result is a positive impact on overall business. But there’s still one more threshold to cross.

Ways to move to Level Four:

  • Tie alerts to multi-variate analysis to spot trouble due to multiple, related events.
  • Collect sub-second views of infrastructure performance from probe-based solutions and report on these metrics from the management platform.
  • Incorporate service-centric status maps to create awareness of all the components required to deliver the service successfully.

Level 4: Dynamic Management

Level Four is the ultimate goal in SevOne’s Maturity Model for Network & Infrastructure Management. With advanced, integrated platforms providing nearly 100% visibility, IT and NetOps teams full understanding and control of their entire infrastructures, end-to-end, including hybrid cloud elements and all on- and off-premises components.

At this stage, their advanced platforms enable IT and NetOps teams to focus leveraging resources to support and enable the business. Integrated monitoring and operational tools automate the handling of most day-to-day performance and availability problems. Their platforms also can shift resources automatically to optimize the infrastructure for changing business conditions.

At this level, probe-based solutions deliver sub-second performance views, including agent-based end-user experience metrics, and correlate them with infrastructure performance. Comparative analysis, and multivariate metrics and analytics provide increased forecasting accuracy.

Performance and management data provides insight into the business, not just infrastructure components that make up the network. With comprehensive automation and reliable real-time analytics, network and infrastructure performance undergoes continuous improvement. Staff members spend less time firefighting and more on innovating.

The EMA Megatrends report spotlights how these teams are making better use of the valuable time. According to the report, 92% of network managers are forming strategies for expanding their use of network automation. Their most popular use cases are:

  • Network optimization (49%)
  • Security incident response (47%)
  • Network capacity planning (40%)

At this stage, organizations have nearly fully automated the monitoringof their infrastructure performance, resulting in unprecedented levels of confidence. This allows staff members to fine-tune the particulars of their systems and implementations for continuous improvement of application and service delivery.

Both technology and business leaders understand how IT and NetOps can help to make business more successful, and the two group have a common language and frame of reference with which to communicate—all thanks to improved network and infrastructure management maturity.

Push Your Organization Forward on the Maturity Path

Use this framework to identify which stage of the Maturity Model most closely resembles your organization’s present functional state. Then determine which steps your organization and your team need to take in order to improve your capabilities and begin advancing through the model.

Things to keep in mind as you start down this path include:

Monitoring tools
  • Move away from element-centric and domain-centric tools.
  • Focus monitoring efforts on applications and business services.
Event response
  • Leave behind the firefighter mentality and always-in-a-crisis approach.
  • Automate as much as possible to eliminate errors and close loops on
    operations.
  • Turn your team’s siloed specialists into domain experts who are focused on
    planning, optimization and business support.
Relationships with the business
  • Avoid being perceived merely as a back-office cost center.
  • Find ways to deliver business insights to the business, such as creating
    custom views and reports.
  • Establish service liaisons within your team; Have them learn how to speak
    the language of the business.
  • Focus on strategic service planning to advance your organizations critically
    important digital transformation.