Network management is the process of administering, managing, and operating a data network, using a network management system. Modern network management systems use software and hardware to constantly collect and analyze data and push out configuration changes for improving performance, reliability, and security.
The system manages network devices such as switches, routers, access points, and wireless controllers. It typically uses a centralized server to collect data from network elements. The server can be located on-premises, in a private data center, or in the cloud.
Devices, clients, and applications on the network can send data to the server with updates about their status. Network administrators can monitor network operations by logging in to the server, usually through a web browser or a smartphone app.
Networking devices, such as routers and switches, and network endpoints, such as computers, smartphones, cameras, machines, and sensors, typically send data to the system in one of two ways:
Cloud-based network management systems typically have low startup costs for users, since they do not require local servers. These systems also enhance IT agility, since they offer IT teams easy access from anywhere.
On-premises servers offer greatly increased performance for larger campus networks, especially when assurance, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are included in the network management system. A local server also offers greater security for network data, since everything is stored onsite.
There are some downsides to using on-premises network management systems. For example, remote access to the server requires a VPN connection. So, an on-premises server cannot provide the same level of IT-team agility as a cloud-based server, especially for dispersed teams in branch offices.
Also, network administration for on-premises systems is resource-intensive. It includes installing, maintaining, and upgrading the hardware and software necessary to keep the network running optimally.
Modern networks are growing exponentially and becoming much more functionally complex. As a result, many network management systems are being enhanced with modules that provide automation, assurance, analytics, machine reasoning, full network controllers, and AI and ML.
Some key benefits of these modules are:
One defining characteristic of a modern network management system is network automation. This is the process of automating the configuring, managing, testing, deploying, and operating of physical and virtual devices within a network. Network service availability improves when everyday network tasks and functions are automated and repetitive processes are controlled and managed automatically.
Network assurance features are often included in modern network management systems. These features help enhance network performance, user experience, and security. Assurance systems often use network analytics, application analytics, and policy analytics as well as AI and ML to achieve full network assurance.
Network analytics is a software engine that compares incoming data against preprogrammed operational models and makes functional decisions for improving network performance.