IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Managing Complex Networks “Behind the Scenes” with Sanjay Castelino, SolarWindsAugust 13, 2012 No Comments
By: Sanjay Castelino, SolarWinds
It’s amazing to think about the many things we take for granted today, one of which is network connectivity; we now expect an always on connection everywhere we go. In order to deliver this persistent connection, IT pros have had to manage an increasingly complex network behind the scenes, and with fewer resources at their disposal. To make matters more difficult, there are several trends blending together that are driving even greater network complexity – BYOD, virtualization, and the rise of richer and more bandwidth intensive content.
IT professionals are looking for products to help them support more end users, an increasingly large number of devices, and networks that are spread out across multiple locations – both physical and virtual. SolarWinds has helped IT professionals understand and manage the performance of their IT environment – networks, systems, applications, storage or virtualization – for years.
Despite a myriad of available IT help desk products on the market, there has been a lack of offerings that are easy-to-use, powerful and affordable – and members of thwack, our community for IT professionals, had been asking us for powerful, affordable, and easy-to-use IT help desk software. Last month, we added SolarWinds Web Help Desk to our portfolio.
Q: In your opinion, what are some of the biggest network management road blocks that have arisen for IT professionals over the last few years?
Network management challenges are ultimately based on the complexity and rate of change in the underlying IT infrastructure and applications. The last few years has seen rapid change. Some of the key trends that have impacted network management include:
- BYOD: The rise in the use of personal mobile devices on corporate networks has created both a challenge in terms of security and support, but also in terms of network management – what devices are connected where and when.
- Virtualization: The new level of scale and pace of change in virtual environments is like nothing that was seen before. Add to that the introduction of virtual network infrastructure (vSwitches) and you have a new layer of complexity for network admins to manage.
- The natural evolution of the network from the LAN that connected PCs and servers to the fabric that enabled services such as VoIP, video, cloud and SaaS has meant a shift from the network being important to the network being mission critical. In most companies today a network outage means business isn’t getting done. That wasn’t necessarily the case a decade ago. From a management perspective that means that looking at availability is no longer sufficient. Today’s network engineers have to look at network traffic and manage QoS actively in order to ensure the performance of the applications that rely on the network.
In addition to these technical changes, the resources available to network engineers have also changed dramatically in many organizations. With the recent economic troubles, many IT departments and network admins within those departments are expected to do more with fewer resources. The idea of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on software or consulting services to solve just one problem is now out of the question.
Q: How has BYOD and the use of multiple IP addresses contributed to this?
The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend has been somewhat of a nightmare for IT departments. The rationale behind the trend of course makes sense – make employees more productive – but the reality of allowing personally managed technology onto the corporate network and maintaining security and compliance standards as well as managing the increased utilization of available resources such as network bandwidth are taxing IT organizations.
According to a recent survey we did at SolarWinds, over 65 percent of organizations felt that they didn’t have the tools necessary to manage non-company issued mobile devices on their network. It is this lack of visibility into the potential problems that has network engineers worried.
There are a few core management problems with BYOD. This includes:
Adopting and implementing a security policy: There are many ways to approach corporate security when it comes to BYOD. Some of the approaches are heavy handed (such as requiring IT to manage and have the ability to wipe your device) and others are very lightweight (such as having a separate wireless network for non-corporate devices). Whatever policies are chosen, IT managers need the tools to implement them. For example, if you were to have a separate wireless network for personal devices, do you monitor that network? What IP address space do you allocate to those devices? How much of your precious (and potentially expensive) Internet bandwidth do you allocate to that network? Can you find devices on that network if they are negatively impacting the overall network performance?
Determining a support policy: Will you help users get connected to email? Corporate apps? Will you support the use of those applications when they have questions? For many IT departments the answer today seems to be “it depends.”
Managing the rise in IP addresses: If the number of devices on your network doubles because everyone brings an average of one mobile device, IT professionals need to ensure they have enough IP address space to support the increase. Complicating this might be that multiple people manage the address space and have multiple worksites. Do you have the tools in place to manage your IP address infrastructure to accommodate new devices don’t cause problems? Tools such as SolarWinds IP Address Manager provide a simple way to manage the address space and the DHCP and DNS servers in the network.
Q: What role did the massive internet coverage of this year’s 2012 Olympics play in all of this?
Events like the 2012 Olympics wreak havoc on IT networks that are unprepared. Unlike previous games, this year’s event has the largest amount of streamed video and media, making it easily accessible to users anywhere, anytime — and making it a real challenge for the network admins. For every user that decides to watch a video stream, a new connection is established. So if even a small number of employees watch the games at work, they could be tying up valuable bandwidth. If you consume enough bandwidth with video, there will be a negative impact on business applications, VoIP and other critical network services. The solution is to put in place effective QoS policies on your network. QoS policies help network admins establish priorities for network traffic; they can be implemented relatively easily. Once implemented, you’ll need to monitor network traffic to ensure that those policies are effectively protecting the performance of key applications and services.
Q: SolarWinds is well known and respected in the IT world for reliable Network Management. How will your new Web Help Desk work to fulfill the needs of IT departments worldwide?
SolarWinds Web Help Desk will serve a critical need for IT professionals tasked with managing their companies’ IT services. There are very few other IT help desk solutions, if any, that offer this level of user experience and features at pricing starting under $500. SolarWinds Web Help Desk is a cross-platform, web-based solution that allows IT professionals to remove complexity and improve service to their end users through practical, flexible tools.
Web Help Desk delivers highlight customizable ticketing, change management, asset management, and knowledge base functionality. By automating and simplifying complex tasks, Web Help Desk helps IT teams overcome the everyday challenges of managing IT operations and supporting virtually unlimited numbers of end users.
Good IT help desk software needs to have several important attributes:
Ease-of-Use: IT help desk software is, at its heart, a tool for IT pros to manage the process by which they ensure that infrastructure is available and that end-users are supported. As such, its true value is realized when it is used by the entire IT organization for ticket creation, ticket assignment, load balancing among reps, incident tracking, knowledge capture and reporting. Software that is hard to use – even if it seems sophisticated, or has an impressive feature list – will not be adopted and will fail to deliver value. And maybe more importantly, IT help desk software is only truly effective if end-users are interacting with the system directly: submitting tickets, self-servicing and tracking resolution of their incidents. If ease-of-use is important for the IT team itself, it is doubly or triply so for their end users.
Flexibility: To be effective, IT help desk software must match the process used by each organization and IT team. Many solutions on the market today fail to meet this criterion in an efficient way: large platforms need to be customized through costly and time-consuming professional services; less expensive point products offer only a standard configuration. For an IT help desk product to be truly effective, it needs to be easily customizable to fit each organization’s unique processes and requirements without professional services.
Powerful Features: While ease-of-use and flexibility are critical to ensure that IT help desk software is used and does not slow down IT delivery, it also needs to deliver powerful features to not only create trouble tickets, but truly automate the IT support process. Web and mobile accessibility, security, email-to-ticket conversion, automated ticket routing, LDAP and Active Directory integration and reporting are just a few of the features that can make IT help desk software transformative instead of just automating an existing process.
The market for help desk software is broad, crowded and active, and there is no shortage of vendors claiming to have the best service desk solution available. However, most offerings on the market today attempt to simultaneously satisfy two similar but distinct audiences — IT help desks and customer support desks. Both types of organizations use tickets to track resolution of issues, load balance cases among a number of reps, report on service delivery, and automate a business process across an organization. However, IT help desks have particular needs that can only be met by with a singular focus on IT. Particularly important to IT professionals is built-in IT Asset Management functionality that can connect users with hardware or software assets, allowing IT pros to quickly see what other assets might be relevant to a particular user’s problem as well as that asset’s incident history. Change approval workflows also help IT pros to automate one of the most time-consuming tasks in their day: evaluating and delivering end-user requests for new software, new hardware or access to new applications.
Sanjay Castelino is a VP and Market Leader at SolarWinds, an IT management software provider based in Austin, Texas. Sanjay leads the company’s initiatives around its end-to-end IT solutions for network, SIEM, storage and virtualization management. He is responsible for our product strategy and go-to-market efforts in these markets. Previously, Sanjay worked at NetStreams where he held the position of VP of marketing and business development where he oversaw all marketing, product management and OEM business and strategic partnerships. He was also the VP of product marketing and management at Motive where he helped to lead the telecom business through its inception and acquisition of Broadjump.APPLICATION INTEGRATION, Fresh Ink, Inside the Briefcase