This is the time of year when summer vacations end and students head back to the classroom. For those of us who have school-age children like me, it’s important that we know that their academic environment provides access to tools and information that will ensure successful learning. Knowledge of our children’s academic resources gives us the power to help shape their educational outcomes.

Perhaps surprisingly, improving young minds is a bit like improving network operations. As in academia, IT environments are highly dynamic – networks support multiple office locations, configurations change frequently to meet business demands and applications require flexibility to meet future trends, such as the Internet of Everything (IoE). Network operations are optimized when IT teams have access to the resources and device data they need to ensure successful business outcomes.

School is in Session: A Network Operations Aptitude Quiz

Do you know if you have all right automation and analytic tools to effectively manage the operational lifecycle of your network equipment? Here’s a simple network “IQ” test to find out. For the following questions, answer “yes” or “no”:

  1. Is your network infrastructure inventory process always timely, accurate and complete?
  2. Can you immediately access and view the most current status of your network devices online?
  3. Do you know the correct location of all your remote devices?
  4. Are you sure all your network devices have the right IOS installed?
  5. Do all your devices have the latest protection against security vulnerabilities?
  6. Is it easy to manage all your service contracts, so more time can be spent on strategic IT initiatives versus administrative tasks?
  7. Can you proactively address network problems before they occur?
  8. Do you have an automated system that helps make your installed base lifecycle management easier, faster and more productive?
  9. Are the analytical solutions in place to help you quickly translate data into insights, especially for data dynamically gathered at the edge of your network?

If you answered “yes” to all these questions – congratulations! You clearly have a great process for managing the lifecycle of your Cisco network equipment. If you answered “no” to one or more of the questions, there’s room to raise your network operations IQ. Use this checklist to raise your score.

  1. Automated, Dynamic Discovery
    Manual installed base discovery is slow, error-prone and often incomplete. Using a Cisco or third party collector for discovery purposes can provide a timely, automated and comprehensive view of your Cisco network devices. Moreover, when network equipment is moved, added, changed or retired, you’ll be able to accurately track your inventory to ensure a proper count, accurate replacement and proper service coverage.
  2. Get the Big Picture
    Many enterprise networks are comprised of thousands of Cisco devices that may include chassis, cards, phones, videoconferencing units and much more. You need the ability to see your entire inventory — across multiple locations and timeframes. But don’t rely just upon simple information like model numbers. Insist on deeper device analytics, such as service coverage status, serial numbers and operating system information.
  3. A Single Pane of Glass
    Command and control of your network installed base is made far simpler when you have a way of both seeing and analyzing all the inventory data available to you in one place. A network portal is ideal for this purpose. Using one screen, you should be able to access the status and related metrics for all your devices, including the ability to create customized views if you wish.
  4. Actionable Analytics
    Look for a solution that provides you with in-depth analytics, including the ability to adapt analysis to your company’s specific needs. Reports should include critical insights into service coverage management, security alerts, product lifecycle status and incident management. Also, consider the need to automatically schedule reports at specific intervals, so they are ready instantly when you or another team member may require them.
  5. Process Produces a Better Product
    When you move to an automated IB lifecycle management approach, it changes the way you work for the better. You should put the processes in place to regularly maintain your inventory to protect it from ongoing risks, share reports throughout your organization with those who may benefit, and use IB information to create business outcomes.
  6. Assisted Human Intelligence
    When you can’t resolve a problem on your own, look to instantly reach the Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) from a portal. The TAC can help resolve a problem more quickly through access to detailed inventory data pre-populated by a Cisco smart services solution like Smart Net Total Care, which feeds specific device information into the TAC’s Smart Data Advantage system. No longer do service calls to Cisco need to begin with the question, “What’s the serial number of the product?” The TAC Engineer already has the answer. 
Click Image to View Document

When considering your company’s IB lifecycle management needs, you may wish to evaluate Cisco Smart Net Total Care (SNTC). Simply put, SNTC starts by automating the secure discovery of Cisco products on your network to give you complete IB visibility. The data gathered is analyzed using our deep Cisco knowledge base to provide you with actionable information that can assist in making proactive decisions to manage network risk, reduce operating expense, and resolve problems more quickly.

An example of one company using SNTC to streamline their network maintenance is Telefónica, headquartered in Spain. The service provider is a world leader in telecommunications, serving more than 320 million customers in 24 countries. Needless to say, overseeing a network this large is a complex endeavor. Among the SNTC features that the company finds especially valuable is the analysis, automation and administration of IOS upgrades. Utilizing the SNTC Inventory Summary and Chassis and Card Reports for identifying operating software versions for each network device, the company can analyze the status of each device, better determine where IOS upgrades are required and proactively schedule their deployment with ease.

The ABC’s of Network Lifecycle Management

I began with a comparison of how managing your network installed base is a bit like managing your child’s educational environment. Granted, the differences may be as great as the similarities. However, the principles of good lifecycle management are as elementary as ABC:

  1. Automatically access all the details pertaining to your Cisco network device inventory
  2. Batch the information in one online location for easy access, analysis and insights
  3. Chart your course of action to proactively protect against risks and foreseeable problems

Optimizing network operations is an ongoing process. Adding automation and analysis to your process can dramatically boost performance. What are the tricks of the trade you or your team use to manage network operations efficiently and effectively?

Please feel free to comment, share and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, @CiscoEnterprise, and the Enterprise Networks Community.


Mala Anand

No Longer with Cisco