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IT Paradox: Managing More Complex Networks with Limited Resources

- August 6, 2015 - 1 Comment

I speak with Cisco customers regularly. The topic of the Internet of Everything (IoE) comes up often.  Put simply, their concerns can be summed up in a single question: How can I prepare for the network of tomorrow when it’s difficult to keep pace with managing the fast-moving complexity of my network today?

IoT: So Many Vulnerabilities. So Little Time and Resources. So Much at Stake.

Research firm IDC predicts there will be over 28 billion connected devices installed by 2020, while fellow analyst Gartner forecasts that 4.9 billion connected things will be in use in 2015, up 30 percent from 2014, and will reach 25 billion by 2020.

An example of one industry that’s moving to meet this opportunity is retailing. Like me, I’m sure you’ve noticed the change in your shopping experience — whether it’s contextual matching of products to your personal profile or in-store product or pricing comparisons using your mobile device.

But moving into the revolutionary digital retail environment enabled by the Internet of Things doesn’t come without risk. New connectedness brings new security threats. For the typical network administrator a major security issue like the Heartbleed bug can quickly turn into a bad case of heartburn. What’s the nature of the vulnerability? What devices are impacted? How do I respond? When you combine these questions with the day to day demands of directly supporting end-users, answering technical questions, resolving network issues, writing scripts, creating reports, monitoring systems and managing version controls, it’s not surprising that a network operations team can be overwhelmed. And that’s before the growing connectivity fueled by the Internet of Things. 

Quickly pinpointing security problems among thousands of connected network devices is hard. But finding relevant security alerts has traditionally been a time-consuming, manual process complicated by the fact that even when an alert is found, a network administrator then needs to find the specific, impacted devices on his company’s network to protect them against risk. Now, compound the problem with the onslaught of IoT devices.

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The Simple Solution: Automated Visibility Yields Deeper, More Precise Network Insights for Improved Lifecycle Management

For many enterprises, the answer to the question of better network protection is Cisco Smart Net Total Care. The service can automatically reach out across a network of tens of thousands of Cisco devices and provide detailed information about each piece of equipment. This information can then be filtered by current product security alerts to create a custom Product Alerts Report for each affected device categorized by hardware, software, field notices, IntelliShield, and PSIRTs. As you may have heard, we recently combined SMARTnet capabilities with Smart Net Total Care. The enhanced Smart Net Total Care service provides even more differentiated services to help network support operation teams detect troubled devices and take proactive steps to remediate real or potential issues. The result? The network administrator can put away the Prilosec for his heartburn. Not only has he saved time and more effectively managed IT resources, most importantly he has helped protect his company’s network from disruption. And the organization is positioned with a process to scale future security responses to the growth of the IoT.

The Importance of  a “Force Multiplier” 

Another good example of how deeper network understanding is helping IT organizations more efficiently manage their networks is Pella Corporation, a Cisco customer and one of the largest window manufacturers in the U.S. Pella lacked the ability to easily detect end-of-life devices and ensure essential support coverage. The company’s leanly staffed IT staff resorted to  manually combing through hundreds of known security bugs to determine which pertained to their devices. This effort took valuable time away from their more strategic network management assignments.

Smart Net Total Care enables Pella to simplify their network operations by automating the discovery of detailed network device data, interpreting the data using off the shelf or custom reports viewable in an online portal, and then taking proactive steps to avoid problems before the occur. A senior member of the Pella IT team expresses the benefits of Smart Net Total Care best when he says:

“Smart Net Total Care is a lifesaver when it comes to managing the lifecycle of our network devices. It’s the sort of tool that gives you a big picture of your network environment. With a lean IT organization, the automation on the Smart Net Total Care backend makes a small team’s performance large in execution and impossible to do otherwise. It’s a force-multiplier!”

—John Baldwin, Pella IT Manager for Infrastructure Projects and Architectures

I can’t say it any better than that. But I would like to learn more from you in the comments section below. What are your specific challenges in dealing with increased network complexity when managing your network? How can automating lifecycle management help you operate more efficiently?

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1 Comments

    Thanks Subu great blog