Possibly the most common back-handed compliment that utility providers get on a daily basis is that they are taken for granted. When you turn a tap you never doubt that water will flow and when you need light or power, well of course it will be there at the flick of a switch. Being taken for granted is a good thing because the underlying message is that the service is simple, reliable and efficient, or in other words; always-on and effortless. If everyone knows the intimate details of a service that they are using it’s because they have to continually battle with challenges to get what they need. To quote the fictional character Mike Engleby“I don't like being rumbled, I like to be invisible.”
I’m not suggesting that Network Managers should aspire to be invisible, that’s not generally a good thing when it comes to climbing the career ladder, but it is a valid goal for the networks that they administer. And with the proliferation of bandwidth hungry applications being delivered to an increasingly wide array of devices remaining invisible to a sophisticated user community demands multiple strategies and intelligent network tools.
So in an age when the always-on network is something that everyone expects we need to have well defined strategies to ensure that what we build is robust and reliable. Much has been made of the survivability of Data Centers but so often overlooked is the access network that provides the final link to the user, what use are fancy services and peta-bytes of data if no-one can access them? We neglect the campus network at our peril so it’s vital that it is every bit as robust and well-engineered as the data center.
Once the network is built we can’t afford to rest on our laurels, we must ensure that it delivers the level of service that users expect; always-on and effortless. The only way to do that is to use a reliable method of collecting and analyzing information about the network. At Brocade we rely on an open industry standard method across all of our products to do this; sFlow. This allows detailed information to be collected about devices and traffic flows in the network and this information can then be used toproactively look for changes in traffic patterns or emerging problems so they can be acted on before they become visible to the user community.
So if you feel like your network is invisible and being taken for granted don’t despair, that actually means that you’ve succeeded.