September 22, 2022

Providing Relief for Universal Network Configuration Anxiety (Reader Forum)

Network configuration management can be a daunting task for IT organizations. They often struggle to impose effective processes. Unfortunately, the automation capabilities of existing tools for IT managers and network engineers are limited, requiring engineers to make manual changes through the command line interface (CLI). This backlog of manual processes can lead to errors and complicate what is already a complex and time-consuming undertaking.

A recent report shows that only 34% of network management professionals are completely satisfied with the tools and processes they use for network configuration management – ​​a tumultuous configuration for the coming year. Another three out of four IT organizations are at least somewhat concerned that their configuration management process will cause errors leading to security issues or performance issues. These errors can strike any organization, even those with a world-class reputation for network operations. In October 2021, Facebook suffered a global Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp outage that lasted over seven hours. Facebook publicly attributed the outage to a bad network configuration change. In fact, EMA research found that 25.6% of all network service outages and degradations were caused by manual misconfigurations.

To ensure that network changes are done correctly, organizations must look to overcome barriers related to IT/engineering modernization, configuration compliance, and network complexity.

Understand the needs of network and IT management employees

Members of traditional infrastructure teams, such as network architecture, network engineering, and information security, are more likely to be satisfied with the tools and processes they use for managing the network setup. That said, members of the application development, cloud architecture, and data center operations teams are less satisfied. This contrast suggests that traditional network engineers are comfortable with their existing processes. However, DevOps and cloud professionals want network configuration management to be faster, more agile, and more predictable.

It’s not surprising. Over the past few years, senior executives and high-level directors have struggled to tie their business objectives to investments in internal infrastructure management and as a result have delayed modernizing their IT/business services. engineering. With network engineers still operating in the same mindset as when they entered the industry, they have continued to value their contributions based on individual orders (serving as modern-day heroes by solving computer problems on a case-by-case basis). cases) rather than using develop new strategies. Network engineers should be encouraged to adopt innovative cloud programs/technologies as part of their “value-creating” contributions, which will move closer to overall business success.

Embrace Configuration Compliance

Most IT organizations know that their network configuration management processes need improvement. They know they risk fatal errors. The question is, how can this be fixed? Configuration compliance is an essential starting point. Network engineers and architects usually know the intent of their network. They know how they want the network to behave and what network and security policies they want to impose, but they’re not sure that the entire infrastructure is set up to reflect that intent.

Overall, a lack of trust from the data center to the cloud and up to the access layer is alarming. A compliance failure in any domain can impact the performance and security of other domains. In response, network managers should enforce end-to-end configuration compliance checks to prevent significant error. Determining whether the network is compliant requires a series of configuration checks at regular intervals for each device on the network, and the results of these checks should be reported to the team so that issues can be resolved. Without automation, this is a real challenge for a business due to the large number of devices it manages and the frequency with which these checks must be run.

Assess sources of network complexity

Network complexity impacts the effectiveness of network configuration management. With more devices under management, changes can take longer and become more error-prone. The EMA found that 31% of IT organizations consider the shortage of skilled network personnel a major challenge to network operations, making it the second biggest challenge to overall NetOps success. This same study found that the number five and number six challenges to NetOps success were the lack of a defined process (22%) and lack of change management controls (21%).

The onset of the pandemic has accelerated the inevitable movement towards digital transformation, pushing organizations further on this journey in a shorter time than expected. Unfortunately, this means that the networks are not managed as they should be. Taking steps now to implement the appropriate configuration management changes will help mitigate misconfigurations due to network complexity and properly prepare organizations for the future as they adapt to a world of increasingly connected.

Network configuration management will be a constant source of anxiety and confusion if issues of infrastructure, configuration compliance, and network complexity are not addressed. Only with the right tools and strategies can the splintered network be managed properly to further support organizational growth.


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