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Network Management Evolution: Where Are We Today?

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Richard Chart, Founder / EVP, Product Management of ScienceLogic on the evolution of network management.

From automobiles to antibiotics, society’s most important inventions have risen out of need for improvement. As the famous saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.”

Since electronic computers were developed in the 1950s, Information Technology has come a long way. Specifically, network management over the past 20 years has evolved. A standard network looked very different two decades ago than it does today. In 1990, many networks were single-vendor and mostly Layer 2-3 devices. Needless to say, this is drastically different than what management devices are scanning and controlling today.

“If you go way back, I’m sure network management tools were proprietary with the start of networks,” said Richard Chart, co-founder of ScienceLogic, a provider of technology solutions for network management and monitoring. “If there was a potential for problems, then there was a need to monitor them in some way.”

The big manufacturers created management tools specific to their own devices. IBM’s tool, for example, was designed for IBM users. Also, management tools were piecemeal. Company developers worked on server management when the need arose. When there was a problem with storage devices, companies worked on storage management solutions.

It was not until the late 1980s that standard network management protocols and tools hit the market.

“The first widespread standard network management tools came into place in conjunction with the first protocol – SNMP,” Chart explained. In the late 1980s, early 1990s, SNMP was the only real way for systems to communicate with devices. To this day, all networks support SNMP.

Once SNMP was out there and all of the Cisco companies were on this protocol, Chart said the road was paved for more complex, all-encompassing devices. While some service providers and enterprises still do use in-house tools, many veer toward companies like the Big Four (IBM, BMC, CA Nimsoft, and HP) or ScienceLogic for interoperability. It takes a refined tool to run a network that contains multiple vendors and an array of infrastructure devices.

Having worked at several Service Providers prior to co-founding ScienceLogic, Chart was frustrated with “the dearth of solutions that had coverage not just on one particular area of the network – with the complete breadth of a hosting provider,” according to Chart. He said there were a bunch of point solutions, but there needed to be something cohesive to control a mature and intricate network. The founders were also inspired to find such a solution that wouldn’t require expensive consultants.

In a nutshell, network management has come a long way. Twenty years ago, we were using homegrown, vendor-specific monitoring solutions for homogenous, simple networks. Today, service providers and enterprises alike rely on sophisticated tools for complex, multi-layer networks.  The tools necessary to manage the network have shifted- they can now talk to each other to give IT departments a single pane of glass view.  As any network manager knows, what it takes to run a network is so much more complex.  The requirements of video and teleconferencing alone are crazily stressing the network.  It’s more important than ever to have a comprehensive view of what the network is doing and the apps that are stressing it.

“This is exactly why my colleagues and I started ScienceLogic,” said Chart.  “ScienceLogic Smart IT software is a single tool that’s able to look, not just at the network layer, but at all the other layers on top of it.  Users can see the full picture of what’s actually happening with the delivery of that service or application.  The network is an integral part of how that gets delivered.”

Today, you can have all your employees do everything they want to do, via a simple browser, and put everything else in the cloud.  For service providers, however, this means even more pressure to ensure services are delivered well.

Network management has come a long way over the past few years.  It will be interesting to see how it continues to evolve and change in the future, especially in regards to management and monitoring.

This post is courtesy of our friends over at ScienceLogic.

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