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The Next Norm: Work-from-Anywhere Performance Management (Part 2)

John Antanaitis
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In Part 1 of this blog series, The Next Norm: Prepare to Work-from-Anywhere, we reviewed the recent, explosive growth in work-from-home and the transition to the new norm, work-from-anywhere. We discussed how enterprises are proactively addressing the productivity challenges of work-from-anywhere. In Part 2 of the series, we’re going to focus on one area that can positively impact all of the above, Network Performance Management (NPM).

NPM is a timely discussion. Per the recent Gartner survey, 50% of network operations teams feel that they will be required to rearchitect their network monitoring stack by 2024. This is a significant increase from just 20% in 2019. What’s driving the spike in demand? Well, it’s a number of things, but more than anything, it’s the complexity of hybrid networks.

As organizations continue to invest heavily in technologies and services that fuel their digital strategies, the supporting network has grown more complex. Adopting cloud services, supporting mobile workers, leveraging AI, IoT and Big Data have put tremendous strain on enterprise networks—and on the teams who manage them.

What can IT do? Get the upper hand on what’s happening across your network—and what’s going to happen! Three core areas where you should be engaging right now are: 1) ensuring that you have cross-domain visibility of the expanded network, 2) leveraging new technologies that can help you in the process, and 3) guarding your flank with integrated security.

1. Greater cross-domain visibility is a must!

As discussed, network demands have evolved. No longer do they simply serve to connect corporate-owned facilities and a limited number of road warriors accessing services via the VPN. They are hybrid and complex, combining on- and off-premises infrastructure, connected by private and public transport types. They connect a high percentage of the modern work-from-anywhere workforce and are accountable for ensuring high productivity across the full range of applications that are distributed, dynamic, increasingly delivered as a service, and run in data centers and clouds.

To be able to fully monitor what is happening and troubleshoot any anomalies on the network, you need cross-domain visibility. Your NPM solution should be collecting and analyzing all the data whether its source is on-prem or in SaaS or cloud extensions. It’s not enough to have point products that are tapping into a few spots or just sampling data. There are better options. To ensure complete visibility, you should seek network performance management solutions that collect and analyze all the packets across your many applications, all flows across the complete hybrid network, and telemetry from all the devices in play. Choosing an integrated platform provides peace of mind from knowing there are no gaps in information or dropped handoffs between standalone components. In fact, research from Enterprise Management’s May 2019 report, Network Performance Management for Today’s Digital Enterprise, shows that “integrated platforms are more effective at performance monitoring than standalone, best-of-breed tools.”

2. Leverage AI and machine learning technology

Once you have collected all the data, you have a treasure trove for mining in times of need. However, with the complexity of modern networks, the volume of data they produce is almost unmanageable. When your teams are reporting slow application response times or the inability to participate in critical video meetings, how quickly can you root-cause the issue and respond? There is just no way to analyze it all manually in any acceptable window of time.

As the demands on your network expand and user expectations rise, your modern NPM solution should be leveraging advanced technologies to deliver insights much faster than human analysis. Network performance management solutions should leverage AI and machine learning to track trends, surface anomalies and identify the root cause of potential problems before they are impacting your users.

A perfect, real-world example is OneMain Financial. By capturing and analyzing down to the packet level OneMain is able to quickly pin slow performance directly to the network or application, eliminate finger pointing, slash troubleshooting literally from days to just minutes, and fix problems before users across their 44-state network ever notice.

3. Integrate NPM and security to guard your flank

With cross-domain visibility and eyes on all the data, it’s no wonder that network performance management and network security solutions have become inextricably linked. In light of the latest increase in cyberattacks, the partnership has become even more important. With the recent surge in the number of endpoints tied to remote work due to the pandemic, cybercriminal activity has seen explosive growth with “phishing and counterfeit web pages increasing by more than 265% daily from January 2020 to March 2020,” per the Bolster analysis of over 1 billion websites.

Choosing a network performance management solution with advanced security capabilities that works in conjunction with your VPNs and leverages every network flow are critical to performing forensic investigation, cyber threat hunting, threat intelligence and DDoS detection to keep up your guard.

Riverbed’s unified NPM measures every packet, every flow and all device metrics, all the time. This gives organizations the control and the insight needed to enable work-from-anywhere models and to proactively identify and quickly troubleshoot network and application performance and security problems. 

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