We are entering a new world where mobility, the Internet of Things (IoT), and Software-Defined Networking (SDN)—Software Defined everything, it seems—have dramatically changed the purview of federal IT pros. Those changes will not slow down. On the contrary, network changes will pick up speed in the next five years as these technologies are adopted and continue to mature.
While nearly everyone within federal IT shops are feeling the impacts of this change, the network administrators seem to be feeling the greatest increase in demand on their time. Network administrators are tasked with monitoring increasingly diverse IT environments while enhancing their knowledge of new technologies.
To help prepare for this new world, we have put together the following list of positive changes we expect federal administrators—and the tools they use to do their jobs every day—will experience between now and 2020.
Network administrators today spend a lot of their time troubleshooting. Moving forward, this process will become far more streamlined by using data that already exists to free up administrator’s time.
The vast majority of applications in place today hold a lot of data that could be used to help in troubleshooting; unfortunately, they don’t quickly and easily bubble that data up to administrators. Soon, systems will be able to arm the administrator with enough information to fix problems much more quickly. The future will see administrators steeped in automated intelligence, where an emailed alert not only describes a present problem, but also includes details of similar past incidents and recent configuration changes that could be related.
Greater Ability to Resolve Potential Problems Before they Arise
With the development of advanced network management capabilities also comes the ability to increase automation by tapping into a historical knowledge base when problems arise. Tapping into that knowledge base will allow those systems to predict problems before they happen.
Every agency would like the ability to have its systems effectively take care of themselves with a greater degree of automation. There is an emerging need for technology that distinguishes from simply alerting administrators to problems, to alerting, fixing, and escalating a notification when conditions are ripe for an issue based on historical context.
Greater Awareness of Virtualization by Network Management Tools
Virtualization is increasingly common, between SDN, network function virtualization (NFV), and virtual overlay technology like VMware NSX®. Yet many network management and monitoring tools have not yet evolved. All the tools that make up that portfolio of network management necessities need to be aware of the construct of what network virtualization is and the specificities it brings—in particular, how to operate, gather, and relay information within a more hybrid and software-defined world.
Increased Connectivity Across Devices
Finally, there’s IoT. IoT will, without a doubt, bring dramatic complexity to network structures over the next three to five years.
While definitions vary, the concept of IoT is really about connecting and networking unconventional things and turning them into data collection points. Think everything from sensors in military materiel shipments to connected cars. A lot of these “things” are testing where we might consider the boundaries of the network edge to be, and where that data processing needs to take place.
With the scale of IoT, it’s not possible to get everything completely centralized. As a result, there’s a natural tendency to make processing more decentralized and push it to the edge. In its current form, that’s a fine model. But if you look at technology trends in general, you’ll see a pendulum swinging from centralized to distributed, back to centralized, going back to distributed.
What’s the best approach? Somewhere in the middle—which is where network management will be heading. Network management tools and Federal network managers will need to build internal capability – staff and technology – to maintain visibility, awareness, and control over a growing network evolution.