Dealing with IT Infrastructure Monitoring Tool Glut

The variety of siloed IT monitoring tools in an enterprise -- many of which overlap in terms of functionality -- makes the case for consolidation of the tools into a single package.

Andrew Froehlich, President & Lead Network Architect, West Gate Networks

November 21, 2019

4 Min Read
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Year over year, IT infrastructures are growing increasingly complex. At the same time, modern applications and architectures highlight the need for steady and predictable performance. Thus, products used to monitor various network, application and cloud performance statistics are required so performance can better be maintained. This is creating a situation where an unmanageable number of infrastructure monitoring tools are in play.

Let's look at the reason why many enterprise IT departments have unwittingly fallen into the monitoring tool glut trap -- and how smart IT leadership is finding ways out of it.

Monitoring tool glut: How did we get here?

To prove the gravity of monitoring tool glut, one must only do a simple search for relevant Gartner Magic Quadrants in this space. From an infrastructure monitoring perspective, here are a few examples of the various infrastructure monitoring and management category silos we're talking about:

  • Network performance monitoring and diagnostics (NPMD)

  • Network traffic analysis

  • Application performance monitoring (APM)

  • Cloud management platforms

While separate Magic Quadrant categories may have made sense five or 10 years ago, they're becoming increasingly difficult to justify today. This is because many features found within these tools now overlap with one another. For example, products in the NPMD space also offer network traffic analysis and APM features. The same goes for cloud management platforms that can also take on network and application performance monitoring. Yet, because platforms are pigeonholed into specific categories, the end-customer can become confused and assume they need a separate monitoring product in each category to provide the proper level of end-to-end infrastructure performance visibility. This simply isn’t true, however.

Another issue is that modern tools are often implemented to gain new levels of visibility, but never considered as a replacement for legacy monitoring products. When the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach is used with network monitoring tools, the number of products used to gain proper visibility can quickly swell. Vendor-specific monitoring tools that are only of value for a specific set of vendor products is a subset of this overall issue as well. For businesses that run best-of-breed infrastructures -- which is on the rise thanks to a shift toward open-source technologies and open APIs -- the continued use of single-vendor monitoring/management tools is only adding to the glut misery.

Tool consolidation is the key

If IT infrastructure leaders would simply look at the growing list of tools used to monitor the various technologies, they’d likely find that what they have in place right now creates operational silos, increases root cause identification times and significantly increases operational costs from both an efficiency of time and software licensing perspective. That said, there’s no single tool or platform available today that can monitor all internal or external infrastructure components. Yet, if you research carefully, there are products available today that can significantly reduce monitoring tool numbers.

While software-defined or intent-based networking (IBN) technologies can centralize both the deployment and monitoring of enterprise networks, most IT leaders feel these technologies haven’t reached the necessary level of maturity. Thus, consolidation options are largely found in next-gen monitoring tools. One such set of monitoring products is currently being referred to as artificial intelligence for operations (AIOps). There are several startups in this space that are not only proving to autonomously monitor network, application and IoT performance, they are also providing ways to eliminate legacy monitoring tools. For example, Silicon Valley startup, Nyansa, recently announced the ability for their Voyance product to monitor and intelligently alert on infrastructure health statuses from popular LAN/WAN and wireless network vendors such as Cisco, HPE, Juniper and Aruba, among others. This includes typical SNMP statistics as well as more advanced QoS and wired/wireless device location monitoring services that can even extend into IaaS clouds. A platform such as this could easily consolidate three to five monitoring tools into one. Plus, with the added use of advanced AI, next-gen monitoring tools can speed up time to infrastructure problem resolution.

For businesses that are struggling to efficiently monitor highly-distributed, multi-cloud environments, there are a couple of options to consider. One is to use a multi-cloud management platform to create a virtual network overlay to provide end-to-end visibility. Doing so allows administrators to centrally manage and monitor cloud performance using far fewer tools. Other tools that cross boundaries -- cloud, application and network monitoring -- are also becoming popular. Companies such as AppNeta and Dynatrace largely focus on SaaS application monitoring  but also blurs into on-premise infrastructure and application monitoring. Thus, for SaaS-heavy environments, you also have consolidation options.

Know what you have -- and what you need

While there’s no perfect infrastructure monitoring platform that can be all things for all people, it’s easy to consolidate monitoring and management tools using modern monitoring and management platforms. That is, if you understand your needs. Putting work into inventorying current monitoring solutions, infrastructure products/vendors and whether you have large-scale multi-cloud ambitions will put yourself on the right path toward eliminating monitoring tool glut.

About the Author(s)

Andrew Froehlich

President & Lead Network Architect, West Gate Networks

Andrew has well over a decade of enterprise networking under his belt through his consulting practice, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and datacenter build-outs and prior experience at organizations such as State Farm Insurance, United Airlines and the University of Chicago Medical Center. Having lived and worked in South East Asia for nearly three years, Andrew possesses a unique international business and technology perspective. When he's not consulting, Andrew enjoys writing technical blogs and is the author of two Cisco certification study guides published by Sybex.

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