Are network performance monitoring tools ready to meet new challenges?

Network performance monitoring tools must adapt to handle virtual infrastructure, new applications and hybrid cloud environments. Are they ready?

As cloud and virtual networks become commonplace and the need for application awareness grows, network performance monitoring tools have to meet much greater challenges. TechNavio analyst Faisal Ghaus discusses where the UK network performance monitoring market is heading.

One of the key factors contributing to the growth of the network monitoring market is the increase in the adoption of network monitoring tools by SMEs. What are the challenges in monitoring network performance for SMEs?

Faisal Ghaus: One key IT challenge confronting SMEs is the greater complexity around monitoring networks because of the increasing numbers of devices and applications connected to networks.  [In addition], managing networks with multiple IP network domains has become a challenge, as services are hosted across on- and off-premises sites.

Another factor is the growth in traffic flowing through networks -- [especially] with the traffic type changing to include more video and voice data. The increased awareness of the need to secure networks is also driving the adoption of monitoring tools.

Lack of standardization on network platforms appears be a challenge when it comes to monitoring network performance. How is that being addressed?

Ghaus: As most solutions use Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), monitoring tools should technically be able to support any device on a network. However, in reality it is difficult to support every device from all manufacturers. Hence, vendors focus on a set of common devices such as routers and switches on networks. This is a serious issue for customers who are not using products from the major suppliers of routers and switches.

Increasing the number of devices that can be supported by network tools requires customization and additional cost, which impacts the rate of adoption negatively. This challenge is being addressed by end users, who are leveraging online communities to share various customization templates and increasing the number of devices that are monitored in the network.

Network performance monitoring tools have had to take on the emergence of cloud-based or virtual network devices. Have network monitoring tools risen to the challenge?

Ghaus: Most of the key vendors have started to focus on tools that support cloud-based and virtualized network environments. However, monitoring tools for these environments are evolving, as are cloud computing and virtualization.

What are the difficulties involved in implementing monitoring tools when you are utilizing public cloud resources or operating in a hybrid cloud?

Ghaus: In a cloud computing environment, storage and networks are provisioned depending on the load of the situation. In this environment, network monitoring tools should be able to [scale in order to] monitor these virtual components.

Service-level agreement (SLA) requirements regarding security, performance of applications, risk of information loss and accessibility are different for public and hybrid clouds. The challenge for network monitoring tools is delivering on the SLAs across various cloud environments.

There would seem to be a demand for increasingly granular and sophisticated network monitoring to monitor discrete sections of the network, power usage or application usage. How are vendors responding to this?

Ghaus: TechNavio does not see vendors facing a major challenge in providing granular monitoring information to network analysts. However, the challenge is to find a balance between overreporting and underreporting network information. The challenge is to avoid false alarms and information overload for end users while providing a holistic picture of the health of the network.

What has driven the recent rise in open source network monitoring tools and is that growth likely to continue?

Ghaus: From the perspective of end users, a number of factors have driven the rise of open source monitoring tools. Open source tools provide an easy alternative in an environment where IT budgets are under pressure and the need for effective network monitoring is higher.

Also, network administrators and analysts are generally more confident in deploying open source monitoring tools. Currently, open source tools are reaching enterprise grade compared with earlier versions of tools, where they could only support small installations. A growing community of existing users of open source monitoring tools is not only supporting the new users but also building on the open source by enabling customizations.

On the other hand, open source monitoring tool vendors are boosting their growth further by providing tool options with limited features. It helps new users to try out monitoring tools without any significant investment and also [offers] an option of moving to the paid version of the product with premium features. The adoption of open source tools is expected to increase further and grow stronger in the coming years.

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