Why Having A Single Pane Of Glass Makes Network Management Easier

In part one of this series, we discussed how IT staff productivity is critical, but the demands on all elements of IT operations, especially the network, are enormous. In part two, we discussed what these products do, and some of the challenges caused by having a wide diversity of network-management technologies.

Today we tackle solutions. Farpoint Group has identified four key possible directions here, and these are not necessarily mutually-exclusive. We’re convinced that the future of IT operations is in here somewhere.

Let’s look at each of these, as follows:

Unified networking

Unified networking is simply wired and wireless managed together as a single element.

Wireless LANs (WLANS), you will recall, initially evolved as a point-product capability and for scenarios such as guest access in conference rooms. Quite frankly, these Wi-Fi networks were not originally conceived as the primary, default, or only access that they represent today.

As a consequence, wireless LANs have historically had their own management consoles, and the potential conflicts with wired network configuration and operations – that we noted earlier in this series – have unfortunately become all too common.

Unified networking is thus essential today, and, in reality, easier than ever, given that the elements that need to be managed are mostly access points (APs) and the Ethernet switch upon which the APs depend for power and interconnectivity. 

And unified networking is available today irrespective of the size or scope of a given IT operation.

Unified management 

The implementation of unified networking is via unified management, with all systems managed from a single (sometimes called a single-pane) console. 

Having to use multiple consoles is perhaps the greatest drain on network-operations staff productivity, in terms of both the level of complexity involved and the time required to optimize operations across multiple consoles.

In some cases, adjunct systems can be managed as plug-ins in the primary console of choice, but we increasingly see an integrated convergence of functions today implemented in point products within major management systems in the future. 

Interoperability will always be important – but perhaps, for the reasons we’ve outlined in this 3-part series, nowhere near as important going forward as convergence.

Analytics and other advanced capabilities 

But such is not to say that innovation in the networking space is coming to an end. We certainly expect that 10 Gbps will be the next jumping-off point in wireless, with 802.11ad, 802.11ax, and thus 10 Gbps Ethernet switches becoming common.

We expect, though, that those switches will be much more configurable and extensible in software, so all required networking functions and capabilities will be relatively easy to implement and control – and via a single console. 

An example here is in the emerging space of analytics, which attempts to analyze the multiple large and complex data bases and traffic flows in contemporary networks, looking for issues before they become critical. 

Analytics can even be predictive, and thus used to avoid problems altogether. Look for analytics as a key function integrated into future network implementations and their corresponding management console.

Converged management solutions 

OK, this one seems at first glance to work against the mix ‘n’ match interoperability strategy, but we hope in this series of article that we’ve outlined why the converged  approach will become increasingly common. 

First, a smaller number of infrastructure functional units means that fewer consoles (ideally reduced to one) would be required regardless, as the trend towards network and IT functional consolidation becomes more evident.

This means, of course, that a consolidation of management functions will also take place. We also believe that a trend towards end-user customization of management functions will also accelerate, enabling IT organizations everywhere to get just what they want, presented how they want it, and commensurate with the interests, skills, desires, and abilities of their operations staffs.

And, finally, expect that this convergence in management solutions is almost certain to occur in the cloud. More and more IT and network functionality will be purchased and operated as a service, with all of the benefits of cloud-based deployments. (Important to note that “cloud” in this context could be either a public cloud or a private cloud deployment)

If nothing else, we hope that this series of articles has focused much-deserved attention on IT and network management and operations. The role of IT has certainly evolved over time, from the “computer department” to the critical enabler of information integrity, security, and flow.

This evolution will, of course, continue, and be eased by management solutions that truly get the job done.

All posts in this series:

1) Why Mastering Network Management Is Key To Every-User Happiness

2) Why A Mix ‘n Match Strategy Causes Network Management Headaches

3) Why Having A Single Pane Of Glass Makes Network Management Easier


Craig J. Mathias is a Principal with Farpoint Group, an advisory firm specializing in wireless networking and mobile IT. Founded in 1991, Farpoint Group works with technology developers, manufacturers, carriers and operators, enterprises, and the financial community. Craig is an internationally-recognized industry and technology analyst, consultant, conference and event speaker, and author. He currently writes columns for Boundless, Connected Futures, CIO.com, and various sites at TechTarget. Craig holds an Sc.B. degree in Computer Science from Brown University, and is a member of the Society of Sigma Xi and the IEEE.

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