In addition, many specialized network monitoring tools don’t present network visualizations, or if they do, they only create pie graphs and bar charts. This makes it much more difficult for the IT generalists at SMBs to understand their networks. Some highly specialized tools can’t even process important types of network data. For instance, some tools can’t monitor IPv6 traffic or quality-of-service metrics for voice traffic, even though those make up a solid percentage of the traffic on a network today!
The good news is the NPMD industry is starting to move into a phase of tool consolidation. The main benefits of consolidation are ease of use, less complex licensing and maintenance contracts, less training and time requirements for employees, and lower operating costs. In addition, consolidated tools often take in data from multiple network sources (such as flow data, packet data, and SNMP), which allows them to offer a more holistic view of the network without requiring IT to correlate the data manually.
What does this all mean for VARs and MSPs serving the SMB market? First, make sure you offer consolidated tools with fewer licenses and more services per license. As customer demand for consolidated networking and NPMD tools grows, you want to be sure you can meet that demand.
Second, if you offer network management and monitoring services to your customers, be aware that this advice about tool sprawl applies to you as well. Choose tools that offer multiple services and require minimal management and expertise, or else you’ll run into the same issue of too many tools and not enough internal expertise or staff to manage them all.
The lack of internal resources and expertise makes tool sprawl especially frustrating for SMBs. Luckily, NPMD tools will become more consolidated as networks themselves get more complex—it will simply not be possible to monitor and manage a hybrid network with heavy cloud use and virtualized elements using single-use tools. Consolidated tools will not only let SMBs accomplish more with limited budgets and IT resources, but will give them access to new networking features like integrated packet analysis and network visualization that were previously unaffordable.
VARs and MSPs should investigate how they can take advantage of consolidated tools to give their customers what they want, improve their own service offerings, and create multiple revenue streams using one tool for multiple purposes on multiple client networks.
JOE O’CONNOR is SVP of channels and alliances at LiveAction, a network performance management provider.