There are several major trends happening in the role of the Network Engineer. No matter what type of business is being supported by the network, the engineer is constantly being tasked with new projects. Included in these is the implementation of new technologies such as virtual infrastructure in the Data Center, improved wireless systems to support and secure BYOD, rolling critical applications to cloud services, supporting Unified Communications and Video services, and maintaining top performance for applications and services such as VoIP. On the cabling end of things, with 10GBASE-T ports being introduced, the Network Engineer is required to ensure the infrastructure cabling is up to par for the future needs of the business. Of course all these trends must take place on a limited budget, reduced staff, and no downtime.

Another trend is for businesses to outsource their IT operations. For Network Engineers employed by Managed Service Providers, System Integrators or VARs, the challenges associated with projects is amplified with a significant focus on customer service and project profitability. Learn more about trends and Fluke Networks support for Managed Service providers.

The Network Engineer of today is also considered the final escalation point for any performance problem, regardless if the root cause is the network, server, or application. They are expected to have the tools to isolate and identify the issue, working with server and application teams to bring it to resolution. “It’s not the network” is no longer an acceptable response to a performance problem, and there is a growing trend in the Network Engineer role to resolve root cause, no matter who is to blame.

Impacts to Network Engineer Role

Network Engineer Role

The Network Engineer used to be responsible for only Layers 1-3. When it came down to responsibilities in a role, his only included ensuring that packets flowed through the pipes with low delay and no packet loss. Today, this has changed. The responsibility of the Network Engineer has now expanded to include all 7 layers, with problem resolution, uptime, and ensuring top performance often taking precedence over any other project. The Engineer is still responsible for the cabling and network infrastructure, but now his role includes working with server and application engineers to identify and resolve root cause.

The continued trend of server virtualization, and by extension applications that are moved to the cloud, are also impacting Network Engineers. They are now expected to take responsibility for resolving performance problems on networks that they do not own, cannot see, and cannot control. If a problem is an inter-VM issue, packet visibility and reliable statistics are difficult to obtain. Additionally, the BYOD phenomenon and the huge increase in WiFi connectivity by mobile deviceshas required someone in most IT Departments to become a wireless expert, solving transient problems happening “in the air”, often without any additional RF training or analysis equipment. In some cases, the entire wireless environment has needed to be re-built from the ground up to thoroughly support BYOD, with the creation and enforcement of security policies to protect the network from threats.


Key Considerations – Network Engineer Role.

“It’s not the network” is no longer accepted by the business as an answer to a problem. If the root cause is truly not on the network, the Engineer needs to be involved in isolating and defining it, which requires analysis tools for clear visibility.Since employing Cloud Based services will move critical applications to a system that the Network Engineer does not control, but is still responsible for, monitoring the network that can be seen and controlled becomes even more important. Access to management and troubleshooting tools is critical from any point on the network, as Engineers may need to connect to them from almost any geographical location.

On the Wireless side, BYOD and mobile devices in general will continue to drive voice, video, and business critical, bandwidth hungry applications to ultra-mobile devices. Good signal strength in one corner of the building does not mean that the required signal quality and bandwidth is available to the user. If Network Engineers of today continue to rely on legacy infrastructure, cables, and wireless systems, they simply will not be able to keep up with the growing demands driving high-speed Virtual Switches in the Data Center, 10GBASE-T, and BYOD. Due to the intermittent behavior of performance problems today, analysis for issues that have occurred in the past is no longer an option.

 
Visibility

In a word – Visibility. Network Engineers need to keep a hold on as many touch points to the data as possible, especially with applications that are hosted in the Cloud. No single monitoring system will provide the visibility needed to solve all problems. Data sources throughout the network need to be leveraged to provide an overall picture of how services and applications are performing. NetFlow, SNMP, stream to disk packet capture, automated data mining, and application performance alerting need to be used system wide to stay on top of performance and security threats, while providing Network Engineers with actionable data in the event of a problem.

When a critical system is moved to Cloud Services, it is important that the Network Engineer monitor the End User Response Time of hosted applications, being alerted of problems before the users experience them. For Virtualized Servers and Consolidated applications, the Network Engineer needs a way to perform line-rate, stream to disk packet capture and analysis, even on inter-VM traffic. With a growing rate of voice and video on the network competing with application data for network bandwidth, Network Engineers need to configure a seamless QoS policy, ensuring that prioritized traffic really is handled as expected end to end.

In the Wireless environment, tools measuring signal quality and throughput are required. These tools must be able to identify causes of interference, while monitoring for security threats and rogue devices, ensuring top wireless performance to all corners of the building both on and off carpet. The ability to identify, classify, and locate BYOD devices will be critical due to the potential security threat these introduce.

As described above, there are simply too many changing technologies for the Network Engineer to keep up with at an expert level. In view of this, he needs to rely on automated analysis tools to provide direction on problem alerting, isolation, and root cause resolution.

Network Engineering Benefits

IT Budgets are constantly being pressured to do more with less, driving the need to utilize money-saving services, while keeping the business operating at top performance. At times the tools required to monitor and troubleshoot these critical systems are cut from a project budget, or are considered optional. This thinking is obsolete in the world of converged infrastructure, Cloud Services, BYOD, and increasingly complex traffic within N-Tier Virtualized server environments. In order to validate, troubleshoot, and restore these systems, Network Engineers need visibility to take the right action in the right place, which ultimately saves the company money and prevents downtime.

 
OptiView XG Network Analysis Tablet

The OptiView XG provides unparalleled visibility into server and application performance, network infrastructure health, link utilization, and network service health. The analysis tablet is equipped with a 10Gig interface, which allows for link verification through line-rate capacity testing as well as lossless packet capture. The Path Analysis and 1 Click NetTest features allow a path through the network to be identified and analyzed, isolating pain points to a single link. Application dependencies can be determined and tested using the on-board ClearSight Analyzer and the Application Infrastructure feature. AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer, Spectrum XT, and Planner also available on the OPV XG are critical for identifying and resolving problem points in the Wireless Environment, especially when preparing for BYOD.

OptiView XG

Visual TruView Applicance

TruView is a single analysis appliance that leverages key data sources such as packet inspection, transaction analysis, netflow, and SNMP to present a correlated view of network and application performance in a single, easy to understand dashboard view. These dashboards are critical in any IT environment for one-click root cause analysis to quickly understand and resolve performance problems. TruView automatically calibrates itself to performance baselines, even at remote sites. Simple dashboards and deep packet inspection allows for collaboration between Network Operations and Engineering in the event of a problem, giving each the critical data needed in order to resolve it.

Visual TruView

Visual Performance Manager/Application Performance Appliance

Visual Performance Manager is a unified system that provides enterprise service intelligence to help organizations effectively deliver business services. Visual Performance Manager spans the entire delivery infrastructure for complex multi-tiered networked application architectures throughout distributed enterprise including virtualized and cloud environments. Custom Dashboard views can be configured to display critical application performance components and nTier problem isolation.

Visual Application Performance Appliance

Network Time Machine

The Network Time Machine allows network engineers to keep a handle on application performance even in high bandwidth environments which support thousands of users, while providing packet-level detail for events that have occurred in the past. The Atlas feature automatically searches through Terabytes of stored packet data, combing for periods of degraded performance for critical applications and VoIP services.

Network Time Machine

AirMagnet Enterprise

This “Eyes in the Sky” solution monitors Enterprise Wireless networks for performance and security threats, 24/7, alerting Network Engineers when a problem strikes. This system is geared toward analyzing and supporting BYOD, since a mobile solution cannot be everywhere all the time. Sensors installed throughout the system ensure that wireless visibility is provided in all corners of the network, both on and off carpet.

AirMagnet Enterprise

AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer

The AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer is the industry standard mobile tool for auditing and troubleshooting enterprise Wi-Fi networks. IT Technicians and Engineers alike are equipped with the critical data needed to quickly solve end-user issues while automatically detecting security threats and wireless network vulnerabilities. AirMagnet WiFi identifies BYOD devices, enabling IT to stay ahead of users as they connect to the network with phones and tablets. The onboard AirWise feature gives actionable alerts for performance and security problems, enabling technicians to resolve problems without the need for expert-level RF training.

The AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer is available on the OptiView XG Analysis Tablet or as a stand-alone product.

AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer

AirMagnetSurvey

AirMagnet Survey is the industry’s most accurate solution for planning and designing 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless networks for optimum performance. This tool is ideal for identifying the quantity, placement, and configuration of access points for a thorough, high-bandwidth wireless deployment. This tool is a critical component for any company tasked with supporting wireless access for business-provided wireless devices as well as BYOD.

AirMagnet Survey
 

Related Resources

Fluke Networks provides many resources to help our customers solve (Network Engineers) challenges. Some require a simple registration. See a complete listing of webcasts, white papers and application notes for other topics.

Whitepapers:

Guide To Deploying And Troubleshooting Video In The Enterprise
A Guide To Deploying And Troubleshooting Video In The Enterprise
Efficiency and Cost Control in Managing Network and Application Management
Written by Enterprise Management Associates, this paper covers why networks are critical to business, and must be monitored and protected as would any other precious business resource.
Troubleshooting Remote Site Networks Best Practices
See how to deliver a high level of network service at remote sites using the best practices outlined in this white paper.
Getting to the Root cause of Network and Application Issues
Getting to the Root cause of Network and Application Issues. Filling the Gap in Tools between Network Management Systems and Packet Analysis Best Practices
Application Centric Analysis
Application-Centric Analysis Helps Maximize the Value of Wireshark
Meet the Challenge to Delivery Outstanding End User Experience
IT faces an increasingly complex and difficult challenge in today’s business environment such as how to deliver high quality, business services to end users while coping with changing technology and complexity. Application diversity, scope of infrastructure and speed of change all present significant threats to performance. How well you manage these will determine the level of service you can ultimately deliver to your employees or your customers.

 

Webcasts:

Leaving Problems Nowhere to Hide
In this webinar, industry expert Mike Pennacchi shows you how the Network Time Machine and OptiView XG Network Analysis Tablet can find the source of problems wherever problem hide -- in wired or wireless networks, in the data center or at a remote site, or even for a problem that occurred in the past
Root cause analysis in a multi-segment environment
When troubleshooting network and application problems it's often necessary to see both sides of the conversation. This isolates the exact amount of latency that each component is adding to the overall response time. In this webcast, we will look at how we combine the Network Time Machine, a high data rate capture-to-disk appliance, with portable analyzers to get the complete picture.
Remote site monitoring and troubleshooting without travel
This webcast reviews how the Optiview can trend network traffic, set alerts for proactive problem identification and help ID the cause of bottlenecks.
Troubleshooting application performance issues without looking at packets
View this webinar to learn how to simplify application troubleshooting and understand the usage of each application at a glance. Put an end to days of decoding packets - with the ClearSight Analyzer you can quickly and easily get to root cause in minutes thanks to the automated and graphical expert analysis.
Proving It’s Not the Network with Path Analysis
The first step in resolving most application performance problems is determining if the problem resides in the network, servers, or in the application itself. In this 10 minute video, we explore how to quickly determine if the network is involved in the performance problem, or if it is free from blame.
Problems Have Nowhere To Hide
Are network and application performance problems keeping your IT organization from meeting its goals? Network management systems provide a great high level view, but there’s not always enough detail to see where the problems are.
Learn how LAN Validation reduces downtime and cuts costs
Network validation provides assurance that a network will perform as designed and configured. View this webcast to learn more about how to reveal problems that can be resolved before the network is delivered to the users.
Quantifying the Impact of Application Issues
Many organizations tend to misunderstand, underestimate, or are unable to quantify the impact of application issues, on their organization. But when you look at the combination of potential customer, employee and organizational impact, the actual cost can be staggering. Join EMA analyst Julie Craig and Visual Network Systems Product Manager David Oliver, as we explore why organizations approach troubleshooting application problems the way they do today.