Does Your Managed Network Service Provider Enable Proactive IT Operations Management?

Today’s Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) leaders own and operate IT infrastructure to deliver services that their customers and end-users depend on. Typical Managed Network Service (MNS) engagements consist of an MNS provider delivering operational support for the enterprise’s IT infrastructure.

This approach helps enterprises to achieve efficiencies in terms of cost, operations, and staffing. It frees up I&O teams from having to fulfill the day-to-day tasks associated with maintaining their IT infrastructure and business services so that they can focus on building out their services and managing their core business activities.

IT Operations Management

From an operational perspective, the management of the infrastructure involves a level of cooperation from both the MNS provider and the customer. To be effective, a variety of IT operations management (ITOM) tools can be deployed to manage the provisioning, capacity, performance and availability of infrastructure resources, as well as the overall quality, efficiency and experience of business service delivery.

ITOM therefore is at the heart of an enterprise’s ability to deliver business services and provide superior levels of customer satisfaction and user experience.

Proactive vs Reactive

There are many facets to an effective ITOM strategy. Infrastructure monitoring, preventive maintenance, and IT service management (ITSM) work in concert to provide the processes and technology to plan, deliver, and support business services. The end goal is to provide increased network uptime, which inevitably leads to positive outcomes at the business, customer, and user levels.

In turn, an ineffective ITOM strategy can have negative business consequences. Ineffective strategies are mainly characterized by a reactive approach to infrastructure management, where the MNS provider is chasing down problems after they occur and constantly playing catch-up when new issues crop up. Which leads us to the need for a proactive approach to ITOM. Let’s look at three proven elements of a proactive approach.

1.    Network Performance Monitoring

To get a better understanding of how an MNS provider can enable proactive IT operations management, let’s focus on one particular aspect – network performance monitoring (NPM).

NPM tools leverage a combination of data sources to provide a holistic view of how networks are performing in real-time and historically. NPM tools provide diagnostic workflows and forensic data to identify the root causes of performance degradations.

2.    Dynamic Thresholding

The availability of performance data over time is particularly useful from a thresholding perspective. The basic concept is to establish a baseline of service performance based on historical trends and bring an awareness to any anomaly in behavior.

The baseline itself is not fixed – in fact, it is fluid in nature. It varies with the ebb-and-flow of business activity. For example, end-user experiences can be easily altered at different points in time during the day, depending on the operating cycle of the IT assets.

An understanding of this fluid baseline makes it possible to provide dynamic thresholding, which is the ability to flag an alert when performance is trending out of normal expectations. This information can then be used to proactively investigate and provide remediation before a service experiences an outage or tangible degradation.

3.    Synthetic Transaction Processing

Synthetic transaction processing techniques provide a birds-eye view of the infrastructure from an end-user perspective. Lightweight synthetic processors are embedded in a distributed fashion across the user base. This provides the ability to articulate performance attributes (such as user experience) from a particular corner of a campus, a particular location, or type of locations (i.e., sales vs back office).

The value of synthetic transactions is that they provide an understanding of the user experience for key applications and services that the user community leverages. For example, folks in one office may have a different experience getting to an enterprise cloud service provider, or a different experience getting to an internally hosted service residing within the enterprise’s data centers.

To maintain a proactive ITOM practice, make sure your MNS provider constantly tests the availability of services by pinging them with synthetic transactions. This provides dynamic thresholding capabilities that help them get ahead of issues before they manifest themselves as outages.

Being able to articulate what the synthetic transactions are in real-time en masse makes it possible to understand what the impact is on end-users. MNS providers can then weave in path analysis and transaction scores as an ongoing metric that feeds into service assurance systems. This helps I&O owners become proactive in understanding areas of the network infrastructure that could have impending failures.

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