Achieve Complete Network Visibility with These Key Data Types

By Jay Botelho, Director of Engineering at LiveAction

Jay Botelho

Today’s networks have never been more complex and challenging to manage. For those charged with preserving performance and mitigating issues across networks made up of wired and wireless, multi-platform, multi-vendor, and multi-cloud environments, it’s often far from simple. In fact, a recent report revealed that more than one-third of networking professionals struggle with visibility across all fabrics of the network. When it comes to effectively managing and troubleshooting these hybrid IT environments, network operations (NetOps) teams need true end-to-end visibility across all network domains.

To achieve complete network visibility, NetOps teams must collect the right networking data. Let’s explore the most critical types of networking data and the unique benefits and drawbacks of each:

  1. Flow Data–Primarily derived from switches or routers, flow data (such as NetFlow, jFlow, and IPFIX) provides details about IP addresses, various protocols, to and from ports and more. Flow data is also extremely useful when it comes to enabling reports and network alarms for things like bandwidth problems or video and voice degradation issues. IT teams can use flow data to identify the top bandwidth users or where video and voice performance issues are happening to determine the cause.
  • Packet Data –While flow data help solve roughly 80% of network troubleshooting issues, the remaining 20% require granular insights from packets that no other data type can provide. Since packets provide deep-level insights down to the details of every network conversation, NetOps can isolate the cause of the issue and resolve it quickly. As the most granular data type, packets can also help with forensic analyses, by enabling IT and security teams to investigate when and how a cyber-criminal entered the network, what they did once they gained access, and more.
  • SNMP Data –Generated by just about any device, Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is an application layer protocol used for monitoring the health of devices on the network itself. For example, SNMP data can verify if the temperature of the processor is abnormal or whether a unit is up or down. While SNMP data provides device-specific insights instead of data on network performance, it’s still an essential element needed for comprehensive visibility.
  • APIs–Application programming interfaces (APIs) belong in a somewhat separate category than the other data types, but they are just as important when it comes to achieving complete visibility. An API is a set of defined methods of communication among various components used to build software. APIs give NetOps the insight needed for better application performance management, or ensuring the effectiveness of business critical applications.

Each of these data sources can be incredibly useful for NetOps teams, but none of them can do it all. Consequently, many organizations end up adopting a wide variety of specialized networking tools in order to access them all. Not only does this create productivity challenges from a workflow standpoint (resulting in further network blind spots), but it’s also incredibly expensive in terms of licensing, support, specialized training, etc.

Luckily, some advanced network monitoring solutions offer consolidated functionality, enabling NetOps teams to see into the dark corners of each domain and better manage, optimize, and troubleshoot their hybrid networks. Whether you’re using multiple “point solutions” or a unified platform for network performance management and diagnostics, collecting, analyzing and acting upon these four key data types can help you achieve the level of visibility required in today’s complex, hybrid world.

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