Network Technicians and Operations are tasked with supporting more business critical applications and services than ever before. This trend has expanded the role of Network Operations in both scale and importance. In most IT organizations, Network Operations is taking on more responsibility due to the increased number and complexity of new networking technologies, consolidation of responsibility across multiple sites, reduction in IT staff, and in providing greater support to network engineering organizations.

The infrastructure supporting business applications continues to change through virtual switching and Cloud migration, which limits the visibility of network and application management platforms. However, Network Operations is still tasked with monitoring these systems with little access to the components that support them. Due to the 24/7/365 demand on these business systems, Network Operations also requires mobile access to these management tools, as well as shareable automated reporting to facilitate escalation and team resolution.

Impacts On the Role

Network Technicians and Operations roles are constantly dealing with increased complexity and responsibility. To keep up with these changes, instant communication is necessary between Network Engineering and Operations, ensuring that a problem gets to the right person as quickly as possible.

Monitoring tools are commonly limited to one department within IT, creating organizational boundaries between Operations and Engineering and the analysis data available. This requires technicians to turn to Unified Communications and even Social Media for interfacing with Engineers. Delays in this communication and data sharing causes business users to feel the impacts of application performance problems long before the root cause is isolated and resolved by these teams.

The Network Operations role is expanding in many environments from a monitoring role to an active troubleshooting role. Some companies try to keep Engineering escalations to a minimum, allowing Network Engineers to focus on future projects and upgrades to the infrastructure and services. This change puts more pressure on Operations to resolve network and application issues, including problems in the wireless environment and security breaches.

Key Considerations

With so much being piled on today’s Network Operator, it is more important than ever to have the tools in place, allowing them to be efficient first responders when a problem strikes. In several organizations, Network Operations Centers are moving toward centralized management systems that support automated analysis, problem identification, and reporting, while enabling access from Smart Phones and Tablet PC’s for Network Operations people on the go. These technicians can follow pre-established troubleshooting procedures using automated tools with user guidance through an issue. When a problem requires escalation, these management tools need to include test results which can be quickly and easily shared with engineering.

 

When an application project or business service is being planned for deployment, be sure monitoring and analysis tools are included in the budget at this stage. Before a new system goes live, it should be monitored and analyzed by Network Operations people using the new management and monitoring system and tools. For example, if an organization is considering a move to an automated ordering system supported by an N-Tier, virtualized environment, the application should to be monitored for delays at each tier. The management tool also needs to include automated alerting and reporting, which will enable Network Operations to take action on a problem before the users experience it. Time should be invested to ensure that Network Operations is equipped with a work flow for each type of problem, using the monitoring system to interface with escalation engineers.

Tool overload is also experienced in some NOC environments. When a problem strikes, there is so much data to analyze and sift through that it clouds the root cause, overwhelming Network Operations technicians. To address this, ensure that a management system uses automated analysis and problem direction, while still collecting the deeper details needed by Engineering. The system should also be able to provide customized dashboards for use by different skill sets within Network Operations, as well as for collaboration with other departments. Back-in-Time analysis is critical for monitoring and analyzing intermittent problems that have occurred in the past, and also reduces the time spent on problem isolation and resolution.

Benefits

There are several major benefits to implementing these management systems in a Network Operations department. First, technicians will be able to keep step with a highly dynamic network environment which places greater demands on their role. These demands include application problem resolution and analysis of network components which cannot be accessed in the Cloud. In today’s critical network environments, technicians cannot continue to lean on legacy systems that only display up/down status and ping response times. This data cannot facilitate finding the root cause of slow application response and often does not allow the problem to be isolated and resolved.When the Network Operations department has the right tools to meet these challenges, the business can continue to operate at 100%, without being restricted by nagging network and application performance problems.

 

Network Technician Tools and Solutions

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 feature both allow a path through the Data Center to be identified and analyzed, isolating pain points to a single link. Application dependencies can be identified and tested using the on-board ClearSight Analyzer, featuring application-centric analysis.

Network Time Machine

The Network Time Machine allows Network Operations 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.

Visual TruViewApplicance

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.

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

OneTouch AT

The OneTouch AT is a one-touch tool used for client to Cloud testing. Application response time is measured and broken down by connection time, service response time, and network latency. Troubleshoot client connection through the wired or Wi-Fi connection, while measuring network services hosted locally and within the cloud. The OneTouch AT can be accessed remotely for team collaboration with other members of the IT organization.

LinkRunner AT Network AutoTester

This handheld analysis tool identifies wired network connectivity issues in less than 10 seconds. Instantly verify link status, connection type, and link signal strength, as well as PoE with the TruePower feature.

AirMagnet Survey

 

 

Related Resources

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

Whitepapers:

Ten top Network Tech Problems
Networks today have evolved quickly to include business critical applications and services, relied on heavily by users in the organization. In this environment, network technicians are required to do more than simply add new machines to the network. Often they are called on to troubleshoot more complex issues, thus keeping the network up and running at top speed. This whitepaper discusses ten common problems encountered by technicians today and their symptoms, causes, and resolutions.
Network Problems on the Frontline: Turning techs into fast problem solvers
This whitepaper will describe the problems facing technicians today, and will illustrate how self-interpreting tools will turn network techs into fast problem solvers, not just problem finders
Ethernet In A Harsh Environment - White Paper
Whitepaper that discusses the unique issues that can arise when you deploy Ethernet in an industrial environment, and how to avoid production downtime caused by these issues.
Finding your way in the maze of industrial Ethernet standards
This white paper will give you some historical perspective on what has caused a proliferation of standards. It presents an overview of the primary standards organizations you should be familiar with and how they relate to one another (if at all). It looks at the key standards these organizations write, the current status of those standards, and what the future may hold. This white paper will also guide you as you ferret out the particular sections in the standards that apply to your Ethernet network, and where you can turn for help as you plan, install and maintain it.
Troubleshooting Your Industrial Network
This white paper explores some of the key troubleshooting causes & issues for industrial networks and what can be done to quickly recognize, locate, and solve them.
Shifting the Troubleshooting Paradigm
Even as reliability is built into networks, IT organizations are under pressure to reduce troubleshooting time and close tickets faster. This whitepaper outlines the shifting paradigm in network problem solving as well as what slows down the problem-solving process. In addition the paper covers current why a three-step process is faster and better than a two-step process and how automation and the new paradigm saves time and money.

 

Webinars:

Turning network techs into fast problem solvers
Network technicians today face many problems on the frontline. What may seem to be a simple network problem with a simple solution can quickly turn into an all-day effort involving several levels of IT personnel and use of several tools to identify, isolate, and resolve. View this on-demand webinar to learn about the problems facing technicians today, and how self interpreting tools like the EtherScope Network Assistant with new Health Audit test will turn network techs into fast problem solvers, not just problem finders
Tracking Illegal Internet Content Through a Compromised Wireless Network
Learn how to quickly determine if the wireless network located in a suspect location is open or secured without entering the building. You will learn how to quickly locate the suspect access point and any wireless device(s) associated with it. This webinar would be beneficial to investigators and prosecutors as it will deal with the identification of an OPEN wireless network and the legality of the wireless technology being used.
Solving 10 top problems network technicians encounter
Learn how to resolve ten common problems encountered by network technicians. We cover ten common problems; their symptoms, causes, and resolutions. We will illustrate how the right network analyzer can significantly speed troubleshooting, resulting in substantial annual savings.

 

Application Notes:

Guide to Choosing the Right Cable Test Tool to Meet Your Testing Needs
Learn the distinction between the three cable test tool categories (verification, qualification and certification) so you can choose the tester that truly meets your testing needs.
WLAN Troubleshooting Application Note Using AirCheck Wi-Fi Tester
Troubleshooting four common wireless problems