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Network Management Tools in 2016

By Andrew Lerner | June 07, 2016 | 2 Comments

SD-WANNetworkingGuest Blog

Network management comes up in a ton of my client interactions, so I recently caught up with Gartner colleague Sanjit Ganguli, who covers the network management space directly. He answered several questions which are top of mind:

Question – There seems to be a ton of categories of network mgmt tools (let alone the tools themselves) these days. For example, there are CCA, NMS, APM, NFM, NPM, NMS, NCCM, etc.  I remember the good ole days when we just had “network mgmt” tools.  Can you break down the different classifications of tools (at high-level) that are most important to networking folks?

Answer – Yes, the alphabet soup has become unwieldy in the network management space. From a high-level, Gartner sees the following tool categories that IT Ops teams should be aware of:

  • Application Performance Monitoring (APM) – provides end-user experience monitoring, runtime application architecture discovery modeling and display, user-defined transaction profiling, component deep-dive monitoring in application context, and analytics.
  • Network Performance Monitoring and Diagnostics (NPMD) – allow for IT operations to understand the performance of application, network and infrastructure components via network instrumentation
  • IT Infrastructure Monitoring (ITIM) – capture the availability of the various IT infrastructure components that reside in a data center or are hosted in the cloud as infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
  • Network Automation (NA) – automate the maintenance of virtual and physical network device configurations.
  • Network Packet Brokers (NPB) – broker network packet traffic from multiple Switched Port Analyzer (SPAN) ports or network taps between network elements, and manipulate the traffic.

There has also been some retiring of categories, specifically for Business Service Management (which is dead), Network Fault management and Event Correlation Analytics, which have been absorbed into other toolsets. Finally, there are emerging toolsets, including Algorithmic IT Operations Platforms, which are striving to take IT Operations to a new level, with advanced analytics.

My take – I remember the good ole days when all you had was ping and MRTG (and you were grateful for them)…


Question – I’m hearing a bit about SaaS-based network management tools like ThousandEyes and Auvik?  Is there an increasing trends towards network mgmt tools being delivered as SaaS, who are some of the other players?

Answer – We are seeing some movement toward SaaS based delivery of network management, but not as quickly as other areas like APM. This is largely due to the amount of network data required for analysis, which makes it difficult to move the entire management framework into the cloud. Some of the other interesting SaaS players include Kentik, OP5 and NetScout’s TruView Live.

My take –Managing the NMS suite was always a pain point for me. Thus, if you can do network management via SaaS, with 80% of the core functionality, at a reasonable cost, you should go for it (note:  not official Gartner position).

Question –I still see a lot of organizations doing manual network Config changes, do you see the same?  

Answer – Yes, this still remains a problem for many clients. There are some interesting emerging technologies like SD-WAN and Ethernet Fabrics that aim to reduce the burden, and risk, of manual network configuration changes, and these are gaining more mainstream acceptance. There is also a number of Network Change and Configuration Management (NCCM) tooling, but innovation here has somewhat stagnated, not because of the tools not doing their job, but due to process maturity and cultural resistance within the network organizations themselves.

My Take – The CLI is the Hugh Glass of networking, as we’ve been hearing the CLI is dead for years. That said, its time to embrace automation on the network (start small, but automate repetitive tasks and then iterate…rinse and repeat).

Question – Despite all the changes in networking over the past fifteen years, SolarWinds has been around the whole time, and still comes up in a ton client interactions? Do you see the same? 

Answer (with help from Vivek Bhalla) – SolarWinds has executed well, with excellent brand awareness and a large number of deployments worldwide. Many organization have and use SolarWinds, because of their ease of use and low price point. However, increasingly complex problems often require more advanced solutions, and end-uses often look to products that provide more detailed packet analytics or broader operations analytics. That said, while Solarwinds may not be at the forefront of bleeding edge technologies such as SDN or Cloud visibility, their solution provides incremental/pragmatic assistance towards solving real-world pain-points. This accounts for much of its popularity and appeal.

My Take – SolarWinds may not be the shiniest new object, but it solves real-world challenges.

Regards, Andrew and Sanjit

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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  • Sir, I feel strongly enough about these items, a few thoughts below for your consideration;

    Inability to execute on Network Change Automation is not becuase of maturity issues or cultural resistance.
    It is becuase of the hetrogenuous nature of
    networks, which often is a result of attritions, budgetary pressure & businuss bias.
    My experience is that Network Engineers would adopt a standards based approch to automating changes,
    ensuring their predictiability in execution, and adherance to standards.
    Companies that use Network Automation and Config delivery to the extreme are carriers,
    who rely on network stability for revenue, and have out of neccassity drive that vertical to embrace
    NA as it is core to their value proposition.

    Also, you are incorrect on Solarwinds. They do not have a low price point, in fact they always fail to disclose
    the expensive nature of the products, all of them! With underlying Windows and MS SQL costs, becoming more
    expensive as you scale that platform. Thier products are not easy to use, I fear becuase they are windows based
    the assumptions is that they are easy to setup, use and configure. However a basic solarwinds NCM build can take up to
    6 hours, soup to nuts, and trying to figure out how to navigate the front-end and then realising that you
    are required to do large amounts of configuration on the Server desktop (over RDP) makes managament of the management
    tool very difficult.