Okay, Maybe it IS the Network (Infographic)

If you work in networking, this refrain is familiar to you. While we all know the network is sometimes the cause of performance issues, often network engineers spend too much time proving the negative. However, the infographic below, based on a survey of 250 enterprise networking professionals in North America (and 22% in Europe), indicates that the network is the logical first place to look when troubleshooting performance issues. This is because both the scope and size of networks are growing to keep up with the demands of new architectures as well as business requests, making it increasingly more complex to deliver applications and services. These results and others are from a new Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) research paper titled “Managing Networks in the Age of Cloud, SDN, and Big Data: Network Management Megatrends 2014.

As authors Jim Frey and Tracy Corbo write in the paper’s introduction:

“Networks have never been more critical to the success of IT and the business. New virtualization and Cloud technologies and services are remaking the face of IT and the way in which infrastructure is architected. But the common thread throughout is the network, which must be both highly available and high performing. The tools, technologies, and practices of network monitoring and management address these needs, and are thus essential to the success of every enterprise and governmental organization.” 

Their goal with this research was to determine the current state of networks and network management amid all this change. The infographic covers some of their findings about the growth of networks and how network professionals are handling cloud, SDN, and network management in general. We provide some thoughts about these results below the info graphic:

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Here are a few takeaways of the study from our perspective:

  • Network traffic is growing: Most respondents plan to maintain the same type of WAN connectivity over the next 12 months. Few (less than 10%) intend to reduce their WAN connectivity, according to the EMA research. Network pros plan to add more managed services than the other types, especially mid-sized and financial services organizations (EMA defines managed services as “dedicated links such as MPLS, Frame Relay, and metro Ethernet offered by communications service providers).
  • Organizations are reevaluating their network mix: Despite the above, nearly half said they plan to replace some of their managed services WAN connectivity with general or managed Internet. As EMA states in the paper, Public Internet and VPNs have their own challenges, but most companies are already facing those due to an increasingly remote and mobile workforce. Mid-sized organizations indicated the most interest in changing their mix. 
  • Cloud visibility is a problem for the vast majority: This is a wake-up call for service providers, who can differentiate themselves by helping enterprise clients achieve the control and visibility they need to adequately manage service delivery. 
  • Interest in SDN high; deployment low: The vast majority of those surveyed said they are in the research/test phase, with 19 percent having some production SDN deployed, and 13 percent with no plans to deploy SDN. These results are strikingly similar to the ones we collected from service providers at the MPLS/SDN International Conference in Washington, D.C. last year and the 2014 MPLS SDN World Congress in Paris earlier this year. This is despite the evidence that service providers are adopting SDN faster than enterprises.
  • Management concerns hamper SDN: Traditional manual and device-centric management methods cannot provide the visibility needed to run a programmable network that automatically adapts to application demands.
  • It IS the network: The survey respondents cited network issues as the top two primary root causes of performance/degradation problems, indicating both the central role of the network and the challenge that network groups face. One positive is the growth in maturity of the function and willingness to work with other IT groups. Indeed, EMA also found that “The steady forces of convergence continue to push network operations teams towards an integrated, cross-domain teaming alternative and network management tools towards tighter integration.” 
  • Route analytics valued the most: Route Analytics, Traffic Flow Analytics and Path Analytics were cited as the top three network performance monitoring features most valued by survey respondents from large organizations with more than 5,000 managed devices. This says a lot about today’s network management challenges, including the dynamic routing structure of modern IP networks. These challenges are exacerbated by the complexity and obfuscating traffic routing behavior that cloud computing and virtualization cause across both on-premise and provider networks. Packet Design uniquely addresses these challenges with our real-time routing intelligence (and while we sponsored the EMA paper and this infographic, we certainly did not influence the responses to this question in any way!). 

For more details, sign up to read the full paper here: http://www.packetdesign.com/access/ema-megatrends-2014