According to TechTarget’s 2015 IT Priorities Survey, 44% of enterprises are planning network management projects this year.
Andy McInerney was on vacation, relaxing at the beach, when an alert popped up on his smartphone. It was work.
McInerney, the data network and voice manager at Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co., read the email from a colleague in his company’s Houston office. They needed help. A rogue device on the network had been shut down, but staff members requested that access be restored to it for a meeting that afternoon.
McInerney fired up Cisco’s Meraki mobile app on his phone, accessed his network management dashboard and, within minutes, reinstated connectivity for the unauthorized device in the Houston office’s conference room. With just a few taps on a smartphone screen, the crisis of the day was resolved. McInerney resumed his vacation without further interruption.
“I can literally manage the network from my cell — from that little form factor, which I would never really do [as a standard practice]. I’ll use an iPad or MacBook if I’m home. But the point remains that I can be anywhere with Internet access and manage my 45 offices,” McInerney said. “They’re always reachable. My switches, my APs and my firewalls are always reachable.”
The fact that McInerney can oversee his network from anywhere reflects the extent technology has reshaped network management. But it also reflects the importance administrators and executives place on network monitoring and management, as demonstrated by TechTarget’s 2015 IT Priorities Survey.
The study, which polled 2,212 IT professionals worldwide, found that network monitoring and management projects tied for first place – with disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity — as the top IT initiative for 2015. A total of 44% of respondents selected those projects as ones they would pursue this year — up from 41% last year and 39% in 2013.
In Penn Mutual’s case, the insurer deployed Meraki’s network equipment throughout its LAN, WAN and wireless LAN (WLAN) in 2013 as part of a broader effort to add more flexibility and visibility to its network. It’s a goal shared by many enterprises trying to find smarter ways to manage networks that are being thrown curveball after curveball — everything from cloud computing to bring your own device initiatives.
Management is further complicated by the blossoming of “hybrid” operating models, which could mean a hybrid cloud computing environment, a hybrid of wired and wireless networking, a hybrid of corporate-owned and personal mobile devices, or all of the above, according to Amy DeCarlo, a principal analyst at Current Analysis. All of those things are putting pressure on network managers to implement new tools and best practices that help them keep up with more diverse network requirements.
“There are so many changes happening quickly, and IT managers are looking for something better than what they had in place. Their expectations are higher because the expectations on them are also higher,” DeCarlo said. “Sometimes it doesn’t necessarily involve big investments, but it may involve thinking strategically about specific elements in the network, having the right tools in place and having some way to integrate them so it’s a much more manageable environment.”
The fact that network management and monitoring share first place with DR and business continuity is also revealing, she added.