There are several major trends happening in the role of the Network Engineer. No matter what type of business is being supported by the network, the engineer is constantly being tasked with new projects. Included in these is the implementation of new technologies such as virtual infrastructure in the Data Center, improved wireless systems to support and secure BYOD, rolling critical applications to cloud services, supporting Unified Communications and Video services, and maintaining top performance for applications and services such as VoIP. On the cabling end of things, with 10GBASE-T ports being introduced, the Network Engineer is required to ensure the infrastructure cabling is up to par for the future needs of the business. Of course all these trends must take place on a limited budget, reduced staff, and no downtime.
Another trend is for businesses to outsource their IT operations. For Network Engineers employed by Managed Service Providers, System Integrators or VARs, the challenges associated with projects is amplified with a significant focus on customer service and project profitability. Learn more about trends and NETSCOUT support for Managed Service providers.
The Network Engineer of today is also considered the final escalation point for any performance problem, regardless if the root cause is the network, server, or application. They are expected to have the tools to isolate and identify the issue, working with server and application teams to bring it to resolution. “It’s not the network” is no longer an acceptable response to a performance problem, and there is a growing trend in the Network Engineer role to resolve root cause, no matter who is to blame.
Impacts to Network Engineer Role
The Network Engineer used to be responsible for only Layers 1-3. When it came down to responsibilities in a role, his only included ensuring that packets flowed through the pipes with low delay and no packet loss. Today, this has changed. The responsibility of the Network Engineer has now expanded to include all 7 layers, with problem resolution, uptime, and ensuring top performance often taking precedence over any other project. The Engineer is still responsible for the cabling and network infrastructure, but now his role includes working with server and application engineers to identify and resolve root cause.
The continued trend of server virtualization, and by extension applications that are moved to the cloud, are also impacting Network Engineers. They are now expected to take responsibility for resolving performance problems on networks that they do not own, cannot see, and cannot control. If a problem is an inter-VM issue, packet visibility and reliable statistics are difficult to obtain. Additionally, the BYOD phenomenon and the huge increase in WiFi connectivity by mobile deviceshas required someone in most IT Departments to become a wireless expert, solving transient problems happening “in the air”, often without any additional RF training or analysis equipment. In some cases, the entire wireless environment has needed to be re-built from the ground up to thoroughly support BYOD, with the creation and enforcement of security policies to protect the network from threats.
Key Considerations – Network Engineer Role.
“It’s not the network” is no longer accepted by the business as an answer to a problem. If the root cause is truly not on the network, the Engineer needs to be involved in isolating and defining it, which requires analysis tools for clear visibility.Since employing Cloud Based services will move critical applications to a system that the Network Engineer does not control, but is still responsible for, monitoring the network that can be seen and controlled becomes even more important. Access to management and troubleshooting tools is critical from any point on the network, as Engineers may need to connect to them from almost any geographical location.
On the Wireless side, BYOD and mobile devices in general will continue to drive voice, video, and business critical, bandwidth hungry applications to ultra-mobile devices. Good signal strength in one corner of the building does not mean that the required signal quality and bandwidth is available to the user. If Network Engineers of today continue to rely on legacy infrastructure, cables, and wireless systems, they simply will not be able to keep up with the growing demands driving high-speed Virtual Switches in the Data Center, 10GBASE-T, and BYOD. Due to the intermittent behavior of performance problems today, analysis for issues that have occurred in the past is no longer an option.
In a word – Visibility. Network Engineers need to keep a hold on as many touch points to the data as possible, especially with applications that are hosted in the Cloud. No single monitoring system will provide the visibility needed to solve all problems. Data sources throughout the network need to be leveraged to provide an overall picture of how services and applications are performing. NetFlow, SNMP, stream to disk packet capture, automated data mining, and application performance alerting need to be used system wide to stay on top of performance and security threats, while providing Network Engineers with actionable data in the event of a problem.
When a critical system is moved to Cloud Services, it is important that the Network Engineer monitor the End User Response Time of hosted applications, being alerted of problems before the users experience them. For Virtualized Servers and Consolidated applications, the Network Engineer needs a way to perform line-rate, stream to disk packet capture and analysis, even on inter-VM traffic. With a growing rate of voice and video on the network competing with application data for network bandwidth, Network Engineers need to configure a seamless QoS policy, ensuring that prioritized traffic really is handled as expected end to end.
In the Wireless environment, tools measuring signal quality and throughput are required. These tools must be able to identify causes of interference, while monitoring for security threats and rogue devices, ensuring top wireless performance to all corners of the building both on and off carpet. The ability to identify, classify, and locate BYOD devices will be critical due to the potential security threat these introduce.
As described above, there are simply too many changing technologies for the Network Engineer to keep up with at an expert level. In view of this, he needs to rely on automated analysis tools to provide direction on problem alerting, isolation, and root cause resolution.
Network Engineering Benefits
IT Budgets are constantly being pressured to do more with less, driving the need to utilize money-saving services, while keeping the business operating at top performance. At times the tools required to monitor and troubleshoot these critical systems are cut from a project budget, or are considered optional. This thinking is obsolete in the world of converged infrastructure, Cloud Services, BYOD, and increasingly complex traffic within N-Tier Virtualized server environments. In order to validate, troubleshoot, and restore these systems, Network Engineers need visibility to take the right action in the right place, which ultimately saves the company money and prevents downtime.
OptiView XG Network Analysis Tablet
The OptiView XG provides unparalleled visibility into server and application performance, network infrastructure health, link utilization, and network service health. The analysis tablet is equipped with a 10Gig interface, which allows for link verification through line-rate capacity testing as well as lossless packet capture. The Path Analysis and 1 Click NetTest features allow a path through the network to be identified and analyzed, isolating pain points to a single link. Application dependencies can be determined and tested using the on-board ClearSight Analyzer and the Application Infrastructure feature. AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer, Spectrum XT, and Planner also available on the OPV XG are critical for identifying and resolving problem points in the Wireless Environment, especially when preparing for BYOD.
TruView is a single analysis appliance that leverages key data sources such as packet inspection, transaction analysis, netflow, and SNMP to present a correlated view of network and application performance in a single, easy to understand dashboard view. These dashboards are critical in any IT environment for one-click root cause analysis to quickly understand and resolve performance problems. TruView automatically calibrates itself to performance baselines, even at remote sites. Simple dashboards and deep packet inspection allows for collaboration between Network Operations and Engineering in the event of a problem, giving each the critical data needed in order to resolve it.
|Visual Performance Manager/Application Performance Appliance|
Visual Performance Manager is a unified system that provides enterprise service intelligence to help organizations effectively deliver business services. Visual Performance Manager spans the entire delivery infrastructure for complex multi-tiered networked application architectures throughout distributed enterprise including virtualized and cloud environments. Custom Dashboard views can be configured to display critical application performance components and nTier problem isolation.
|Network Time Machine|
The Network Time Machine allows network engineers to keep a handle on application performance even in high bandwidth environments which support thousands of users, while providing packet-level detail for events that have occurred in the past. The Atlas feature automatically searches through Terabytes of stored packet data, combing for periods of degraded performance for critical applications and VoIP services.
This “Eyes in the Sky” solution monitors Enterprise Wireless networks for performance and security threats, 24/7, alerting Network Engineers when a problem strikes. This system is geared toward analyzing and supporting BYOD, since a mobile solution cannot be everywhere all the time. Sensors installed throughout the system ensure that wireless visibility is provided in all corners of the network, both on and off carpet.
|AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer|
The AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer is the industry standard mobile tool for auditing and troubleshooting enterprise Wi-Fi networks. IT Technicians and Engineers alike are equipped with the critical data needed to quickly solve end-user issues while automatically detecting security threats and wireless network vulnerabilities. AirMagnet WiFi identifies BYOD devices, enabling IT to stay ahead of users as they connect to the network with phones and tablets. The onboard AirWise feature gives actionable alerts for performance and security problems, enabling technicians to resolve problems without the need for expert-level RF training.
The AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer is available on the OptiView XG Analysis Tablet or as a stand-alone product.
AirMagnet Survey is the industry’s most accurate solution for planning and designing 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless networks for optimum performance. This tool is ideal for identifying the quantity, placement, and configuration of access points for a thorough, high-bandwidth wireless deployment. This tool is a critical component for any company tasked with supporting wireless access for business-provided wireless devices as well as BYOD.
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