Gaining full network visibility is a critical aspect of proper management, particularly for managed service providers (MSPs) and channel partners. Understanding customers’ networks completely allows them to provide the best possible service and ensure the highest quality end-user experience.
Therefore, it is essential to be able to view traffic and events in real time. The more information MSPs have about the traffic crossing a network, and the sooner they have it, the better they can understand the quality of the experience they are providing customers—and make adjustments as necessary.
Real-time visibility with alerts and anomaly detection enables a provider to recognize behavior patterns, locate issues, and make more informed decisions about what to be on guard against and how to solve any issues. In addition, with more information, the easier it is to scale and manage several customer networking experiences at the same time.
The key aspects of a network that MSPs need visibility into include:
- Traffic: Understanding the volume, type, and origin of network traffic is essential for identifying potential bottlenecks or issues. Strong visibility allows for a tunnel-free routing approach, where the most important traffic can be prioritized to its destination in the fastest path possible. This approach is simpler and more efficient than using tunnels, and it can also help improve performance and reduce costs.
- Performance: Monitoring network performance, including latency and packet loss, is crucial for ensuring that the network is operating at its best and that end users have a consistent experience. In addition, being able to view network events in real time makes it easier to identify and resolve problems quickly as they occur. Managing clients’ networks more proactively will help to ensure they have an excellent networking experience each time they connect. This is only possible with strong visibility.
- Security: Closely tied to performance, visibility into network security is essential for identifying and addressing potential vulnerabilities or attacks. Information is critical during a breach; teams need to know where, when, how, and what was affected—and what could be affected. Visibility grants this information to a security team, letting them act instead of investigating.
While visibility is critical in order to properly take a proactive approach to managing a customer’s network, a service provider is also responsible for managing their own company’s ability to provide services, compete, and grow. The only way to do that is if network management can be scaled and simplified, across all accounts. All customers should continue to receive the same level of service and excellent experience, no matter how big their partner grows.
A dashboard that provides a single pane of glass view into networks, such as uptime, events, issues, and more, is important to be able to identify issues and act across all accounts, instead of waiting to determine if it affects each customer first. A dashboard helps teams to maintain the experience by recognizing issues early and proactively fixing them, often before the users even know anything was done.
That said, the makeup of a client’s network itself has become increasingly complex these past few years. With the rise and normalcy of remote and hybrid work, and the never-ending stream of cloud applications and connected devices, the size of the network that has to be managed, monitored, and protected is growing exponentially. This makes it more difficult to gain full visibility, as the “entire network view” is a moving target. Despite that, MSPs need to continue to grow their business and add new customers. This is where advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) can help.
AI can become a difference maker for many service providers when it comes to managing multiple client instances across the entire business. With AI-driven tools and technologies, lower-level monitoring and mundane, repeatable tasks can be taken over, freeing up teams to work more efficiently and concentrate on higher-level tasks.
There are three ways that AI can help a service provider gain visibility and maintain the end-user experience:
- Monitoring: AI technologies supplement the resources required to manage new clients. AI can monitor each client’s networking environment and raise any issues to the team. It can also help to sort and prioritize issues for the team, so they can address the most critical without wasting time and effort on areas of little importance. In some cases, the AI could also be trained to make a small repair or correction when an issue is identified.
- Troubleshooting: Time to repair is one of the most critical factors when it comes to network management. A problem might be reported, but the cause might not be immediately visible to the team. This traditionally has required a lengthy trial-and-error exercise to find and isolate the problem. AI can speed this process to a conclusion very quickly. It can analyze the issue, identify potential causes, and help the team eliminate them until the culprit is found. Not only can repairs be made quickly, but clients will be thrilled with the speed of the response.
- Repairing: In addition to identifying the problem, AI can assist in repairing it by making recommendations and guiding a team member through the repairs—speeding resolution time and ultimately maintaining a positive end-user experience.
Visibility Equals a Greater Experience
By gaining real-time visibility into network traffic, events, performance, and security, MSPs can ensure that the best possible service is being provided to customers. Implementing advanced technologies such as AI to help with monitoring, troubleshooting, and repairs can lower time to repair, improve experiences, and provide the ability to easily manage several excellent end-user networking experiences at the same time.
KAREN FALCONE (pictured left) is senior director of product marketing for AI-driven SD-WAN, and Service Provider as a Channel at Juniper Networks. Prior to this role, she served as vice president of marketing at 128 Technology, which was acquired by Juniper in 2020.
KAYLA ZBINDEN (pictured right) is director of MSP product development for Granite Telecommunications, specializing in SD-WAN and next-generation managed services, She has spent the last decade working within the telecom industry after graduating from University of New Haven with a BS in International Justice and Security.