Key Factors in NCCM and CMDB Integration – Part 2 – Change Configuration and Backup

In Part 1 of this series I discussed how an NCCM solution and a CMDB can work together to create a more effective IT inventory system. In this post, I will be taking that a step further and show how your change configuration process will benefit from integration with that same CMDB.

Key Factors in NCCM and CMDB Integration - Part 2 – Change Configuration and BackupIn general, the process of implementing IT infrastructure change happens at 3 separate stages of an assets lifecycle.

  1. Initial deployment / provisioning
  2. In production / changes
  3. Decommissioning / removal

In each of these stages, there is a clear benefit to having the system(s) that are responsible for orchestrating the change be integrated with an asset inventory / CMDB tool. Let’s take a look at each one to see why.

1. Initial Deployment / Provisioning

When a new device is ready to be put onto the network, it must go through at least one (and probably many) pre-deployment steps in order to be configured for its eventual job in the IT system. From “out of the box” to “in production” requires at least the following:

  1. Installation / turn on/ pretest of HW
  2. Load / upgrade of SW images
  3. Configuration of “base” information like IP address / FQDN / Management configuration
  4. Creation / deployment of full configuration

This may also include policy security testing and potentially manual acceptance by an authorized manager. It is best practice to control this process through an ITIL compliant system using a software application which has knowledge of what is required at each step and controls the workflow and approval process. However, the CMDB / Service desk rarely if ever can also process the actual changes to the devices. This is typically a manual process or (in the best case) is automated with an NCCM system. So, in order to coordinate that flow of activity, it is absolutely essential to have the CMDB be the “keeper” of the process and then “activate” the NCCM solution when it is time to make the changes to the hardware. The NCCM system should then be able to inform the CMDB that the activity was performed and also report back any potential issues or errors that may have occurred.

2. In Production / Changes

Once a device has been placed into production, at some point there will come a time where the device needs to have changes made to its hardware, software or configuration. Once again, the change control process should be managed through the CMDB / service desk. It is critical that as this process begins, the CMDB has been kept up today as to the current asset information. That way there are no “surprises” when it comes time to implement the changes. This goes back to having a standard re-discovery process which is performed on a known schedule by the NCCM system. We have found that most networks require a full rediscovery about 1x per week to be kept up to date –but we have also worked with clients that adjust this frequency up or down as necessary.

Just as in the initial deployment stage, it is the job of the NCCM system to inform the CMDB as to the state of the configuration job including any problems that might have been encountered. In some cases it is prudent to have the NCCM system automatically retry any failed job at least once prior to reporting the failure.

3. Decommissioning / Removal

When the time has come for a device to be removed from production and/or decommissioned the same type of process should be followed from when it was initially provisioned (but in reverse). If the device is being replaced by a newer system then the part of (or potentially the whole) configuration may just be moved to the new hardware. This is where the NCCM systems backup process will come into play. As per all NCCM best practices, there should be a regular schedule of backups that happen in order to make sure the configuration is known and accessible in case of emergency etc.

Once the device has been physically removed from the network, it must also either be fully removed from the CMDB or at the very least should be tagged as decommissioned. This has many benefits including stopping the accidental purchase of support and maintenance on a device which is no longer in service as well as preventing the NCCM system from attempting to perform discovery or configuration jobs on the device in the future (which would create a failure etc).

NCCM systems and CMDB’s really work hand in hand to help manage the complete lifecycle of an IT asset. While it could be possible to accurately maintain two non-connected systems, the time and effort involved, not to mention that much greater potential for error, makes the integration of your CMDB and NCCM tools a virtual necessity for large modern IT networks.

Top 20 Best Practices for NCCM
Thanks to NMSaaS for the article.

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Infosim® Announces Release of StableNet® 7.5

Infosim StableNet Network Monitoring SoftwareInfosim®, the technology leader in automated Service Fulfillment and Service Assurance solutions, today announced the release of version 7.5 of its award-winning software suite StableNet® for Telco and Enterprise customers.

StableNet® 7.5 provides a significant number of powerful new features, including:

  • Dynamic Rule Generation (DRG); a new and revolutionary Fault Management concept
  • REST interface supporting the new StableNet® iPhone (and upcoming Android) app
  • Highly customizable dashboard in both the GUI and Web Portal
  • Enabling integration with SDN/NFV element managers
  • NCCM structurer enabling creation of optimized and well-formatted device configurations
  • New High-Availability (HA) infrastructure based on Linux HA technology
  • Syslog & Trap Forwarding enabling integration of legacy systems that rely on their original trap & syslog data
  • Open Alarms GeoMap enabling geographical representation of open alarms

StableNet® version 7.5 is available for purchase now. Customers with current maintenance contracts may upgrade free of charge as per the terms and conditions of their contract.

Supporting Quotes:

Jim Duster, CEO Infosim® ,Inc.

“We are happy that our newest release is again full of innovative features like DRG. Our customers are stating this new DRG feature will help them receive a faster ROI by improving automation in their fault management area and dramatically increase the speed of Root-Cause Analysis.”

Download the release notes here

Thanks to Infosim for the article.

Infosim® Global Webinar Day October 29th, 2015 StableNet® 7.5 – What’s New?

Infosim® Global Webinar Day October 29th, 2015 StableNet® 7.5 - What's New?

Join Harald Hoehn, Senior Developer and Consultant with Infosim®, for a Webinar and Live Demo on the latest information regarding StableNet® 7.5

This Webinar will provide insight into:

StableNet® 7.5 New Features such as:

  • New Web Portal [Live Demo]
  • New Alarm Dashboard [Live Demo]
  • New NCCM Structurer [Live Demo]
  • DRG (Dynamic Rule Generation) as a new and revolutionary Fault Management concept

StableNet® 7.5 Enhancements such as:

  • Enhanced Weather Maps [Live Demo]
  • Improved Trap- and Syslog-Forwarding [Live Demo]
  • Advanced Netflow Features [Live Demo]
  • Enhanced Support for SDN

But wait – there is more! We are giving away three Amazon Gift Cards (value $50) on this Global Webinar Day. To join the draw, simply answer the trivia question that will be part of the questionnaire at the end of the Webinar. Good Luck!

Infosim® Global Webinar Day October 29th, 2015 StableNet® 7.5 - What's New?
(Take a look at our previous Webinars here.)

Thanks to Infosim for the article.

SDN/NFV – From Theory to Praxis with Infosim® StableNet®

InterComms talks to Marius Heuler, CTO Infosim®, about Infosim® StableNet® and the management and orchestration of SDN and NFV environments

Marius Heuler has more than 15 years of experience in network management and optimization. As CTO and founding member of Infosim®, he is responsible for leading the Infosim® technical team in architecting, developing, and delivering StableNet®. He graduated from the University of Würzburg with a degree in Computer Science, holds several Cisco certifications, and has subject matter expert knowledge in various programming languages, databases and protocol standards. Prior to Infosim®, Marius held network management leadership positions and performed project work for Siemens, AOK Bavaria and Vodafone.

Q: The terms SDN and NFV recently have been on everybody’s lips. However, according to the critics, it is still uncertain how many telcos and enterprises use these technologies already. What is your point of view on this topic?
A: People tend to talk about technologies and ask for the support of a certain interface, service, or technology. Does your product support protocol X? Do you offer service Y? What about technology Z?

Experience shows that when looking closer at the actual demand, it is often not the particular technology, interface, or service people are looking for. What they really want is a solution for their particular case. That is why I would rather not expect anybody to start using SDN or NFV as an end in itself. People will start using these technologies once they see that it is the best (and most cost-efficient) way to relieve their pain points.

Andrew Lerner, one of the Gartner Blog Network members, recently gave a statement pointing in the exact same direction, saying that Gartner won’t publish an SDN Magic Quadrant, “because SDN and NFV aren’t markets. They are an architectural approach and a deployment option, respectively.“

SDN/NFV – From Theory to Praxis with Infosim® StableNet®

Q: You have been talking about use cases for SDN and NFV. A lot of these use cases are also being discussed in different standardization organizations or in research projects. What is Infosim®’s part in this?
A: There are indeed a lot of different use cases being discussed and as you mentioned a lot of different standardization and research activities are in progress. At the moment, Infosim® is committing to this area in various ways: We are a member of TM Forum and recently also joined the ETSI ISG NFV. Furthermore, we follow the development of different open source activities, such as the OpenDaylight project, ONOS, or OPNFV, just to name a few. Besides this, Infosim® is part of several national and international research projects in the area of SDN and NFV where we are working together with other subject matter experts and researchers from academia and industry. Topics cover among others operation and management of SDN and NFV environments as well as security aspects. Last but not least, Infosim® is also in contact with various hardware and software vendors regarding these topics. We thereby equally look on open source solutions as well as proprietary ones.

Q: Let us talk about solutions then: With StableNet® you are actually quite popular and successful in offering a unified network management solution. How do SDN and NFV influence the further development of your offering?
A: First of all, we are proud to be one of the leading manufacturers of automated Service Fulfillment and Service Assurance solutions. The EMAtm has rated our solution as the most definitive Value Leader in the EMAtm Radar for Enterprise Network Availability Monitoring Systems in 2014. We do not see ourselves as one of the next companies to develop and offer their own SDN controller or cloud computing solution. Our intent is rather to provide our well-known strength in unified network management for the SDN/NFV space as well. This includes topics like Service Assurance, Fault Management, Configuration, and Provisioning, Service Modelling, etc.

Q: Are there any particular SDN controller or cloud computing solutions you can integrate with?
A: There is a wide range of different SDN controllers and cloud computing solutions that are currently of general interest. In its current SDN controller report the SDxcentral gave an overview and comparison of the most common open source and proprietary SDN controllers. None of these controllers can be named as a definite leader. Equally regarding the NFV area, the recent EMAtm report on Open Cloud Management and Orchestration showed that besides the commonly known OpenStack there are also many other cloud computing solutions that enterprises are looking at and think of working with.

These developments remind me of something that, with my experience in network management, I have known for over a decade now. Also when looking at legacy environments there have always been competing standards. Despite years of standardization activities of various parties, often none of the competing standards became the sole winner and rendered all other interfaces or technologies obsolete. In fact, there is rather a broad range of various technologies and interfaces to be supported by a management system.

This is one of the strengths that we offer with StableNet®. We currently support over 125 different standardized and vendor-specific interfaces and protocols in one unified network management system. Besides this, with generic interfaces both for monitoring and configuration purposes we can easily integrate with any structured data source by the simple creation of templates rather than the complicated development of new interfaces. This way, we can shift the main focus of our product and development activities to the actual management and orchestration rather than the adaption to new data sources.

Q: Could you provide some examples here?
A: We continuously work on the extension of StableNet® with innovative new features to further automate the business processes of our customers and to simplify their daily work. Starting from Version 7, we have extended our existing integration interfaces by a REST API to further ease the integration with third party products. With Dynamic Rule Generation, Distributed Syslog Portal, and Status Measurements we offer the newest technologies for an efficient alarming and fault management. Our StableNet® Embedded Agent (SNEA) allows for an ultra-scalable, distributed performance monitoring as well as for the management of IoT infrastructures. Being part of our unified network management solution, all these functionalities, including the ultra-scalable and vendor-agnostic configuration management, can equally be used in the context of SDN and NFV. A good way to keep up-to-date with our newest developments are our monthly Global Webinar Days. I would really recommend you to have a look at those.

Q: As a last question, since we have the unique chance to directly talk with the CTO of Infosim®, please let us be a little curious. What key novelties can people expect to come next from Infosim®?
A: There are of course many things that I could mention here, but the two areas that will probably have the most significant impact on management and orchestration are our new service catalog and the new tagging concept. With the service catalog the management is moved from a rather device- or server-based perspective to a holistic service-based view. This tackles both the monitoring and the configuration perspective and can significantly simplify and speed up common business processes. This is of course also related to our new tagging concept.

This new approach is a small revolution to the way that data can be handled for management and orchestration. We introduce the possibility for an unlimited number of customizable tags for each entity, let it be a device, an interface, or an entire service, and combine this with automated relations and inheritance of proprieties between the different entities. Furthermore, the entities can be grouped in an automated way according to arbitrary tag criteria. This significantly extends the functionality, usability, and also the visualization possibilities.

Thanks to InterComms for the article.

5 Reasons Why You Should Include LAN Switches in Your NCCM Scope

We’ve been doing a lot of blogging around here lately about NCCM and the importance of having an automated configuration and change management system. We’ve even published a Best practices guide for NCCM. One of the main points in any NCCM system is having consistent and accurate configuration backups of all of your “key” devices.

When I ask Network Managers to name their key devices, they generally start with WAN / Internet routers and Firewalls. This makes sense of course because, in a modern large-scale network, connectivity (WAN / Internet routers) & security (Firewalls) tend to get most of the attention. However, we think that it’s important not to overlook core and access switching layers. After all, without that “front line” connectivity – the internal user cannot get out to the WAN/Internet in the first place.

With that in mind, today’s blog offers up 5 Reasons Why You Should Include LAN Switches in Your NCCM Scope


5 Reasons Why You Should Include LAN Switches in Your NCCM Scope1. Switch Failure

LAN switches tend to be some of the most utilized devices in a network. They also don’t generally come with the top quality hardware and redundant power supplies that core devices have. In many cases, they may also be located on less than pristine locations. Dirty manufacturing floors, dormitory closets, remote office kitchens – I have seen access switches in all of these places. When you combine a heavy workload with tough conditions and less expensive part, you have a recipe for devices that will fail at a higher rate.

So, when that time comes to replace / upgrade a switch, having its configuration backed up and a system which can automate the provisioning of the new system can be a real time and workload saver. Just put the IP address and some basic management information on the new device and the NCCM tool should be able to take off the rest in mere minutes.

2. User Tracking

As the front line connectivity device for the majority of LAN users, the switch is the best place to track down user connections. You may want to know where a particular user is located, or maybe you are trying to troubleshoot an application performance issue; no matter what the cause, it’s important to have that connectivity data available to the IT department. NCCM systems may use layer 2 management data from CDP/LLDP as well as other techniques to gather this information. A good system will allow you to search for a particular IP/MAC/DNS and return connectivity information like which device/port it is connected to as well as when it was first and last seen on that port. This data can also be used to draw live topology maps which offer a great visualization of the network.

3. Policy Checking

Another area where the focus tends to be on “gateway” devices such as WAN routers and firewalls is policy checking. While those devices certainly should have lots of attention paid to them, especially in the area of security policies, we believe that it’s equally as important not to neglect the access layer when it comes to compliance. In general terms, there are two aspects of policy checking which need to be addressed on these devices: QoS policies and regulatory compliance policies.

The vast majority of VoIP and Video systems will connect to the network via a traditional LAN switch. These switches, therefore, must have the correct VLAN and QoS configurations in order to accurately forward the traffic in the appropriate manner so that Quality of Service is maintained.

If your organization is subject to regulatory compliance standards such as PCI, HIPAA etc then these regulations are applicable to all devices and systems that are connected to or pass sensitive data.

In both of these cases, it is incredibly important to ensure policy compliance on all of your devices, even the ones on the “edge” of your network.

4. Asset Lifecycle Management

Especially in larger and more spread out organizations, just understanding what you have can be a challenge. At some point (and always when you are least prepared for it) you will get the “What do we have?” question from a manager. An NCCM system is exactly the right tool to use to answer this question. Even though NCCM is generally considered to be the tool for change – it is equally the tool for information. Only devices that are well documented can be managed and that documentation is best supplied through the use of an automated inventory discovery system. Likewise, when it is time for a technology refresh, or even the build out of a new location or network, understanding the current state of the existing network is the first step towards building an effective plan for the future.

5. New Service Initiatives

Whether you are a large IT shop or a service provider – new applications and services are always coming. In many cases, that will require widespread changes to the infrastructure. The change may be small or larger, but if it needs to be implemented on a number of systems at the same time, it will require coordination and automation to get it done efficiently and successfully. In some instances, this will only require changes to the core, but in many cases it will also require changes to the switch infrastructure as well. This is what NCCM tools were designed to do and there is no reason that you should be handcuffed in your efforts to implement change just because you haven’t added all of your devices into the NCCM platform.

Networks are complicated systems of many individual components spread throughout various locations with interdependencies that can be hard to comprehend without the help of network management tools. While the temptation may be to focus on the core systems, we think that it’s critical to view all parts, even the underappreciated LAN switch, as equal pieces to the puzzle and, therefore, should not be overlooked when implementing an NCCM system.

Top 20 Best Practices for NCCM

Thanks to NMSaaS for the article.

5 Perks of Network Performance Management

Network performance management is something that virtually every business needs, but not something that every business is actively doing, or even aware of. And why should they?

While understanding the technical side of things is best left to the IT department, understanding the benefits of a properly managed network is something that will help get the business managers on board, especially when good performance management solutions might be a cost that hadn’t been considered. So what are the benefits?
5 Perks of Network Performance Management1. Avoiding downtime – Downtime across an entire network is going to be rare, but downtime in small areas of the network are possible if it gets overloaded. Downtime of any kind is just not something that business can tolerate, for a few reasons:

  • it leaves that area of the network unmonitored, which is a serious security issue
  • shared files won’t be accessible, nor will they be updating as users save the files. This will lead to multiple versions of the same file, and quite a few headaches when the network is accessible again
  • downtime that affects customers is even worse, and can result in lost revenue or negative customer experiences

2. Network speed – This is one of the most important and easily quantified aspects of managing netflow. It will affect every user on the network constantly, and anything that slows down users means either more work hours or delays. Obviously, neither of these is a good problem to have. Whether it’s uploading a file, sending a file to a coworker, or sending a file to a client; speed is of paramount importance.

3. Scalability – Almost every business wants to grow, and nowhere is that more true than the tech sector. As the business grows, the network will have to grow with it to support more employees and clients. By managing the performance of the network, it is very easy to see when or where it is being stretched too thin or overwhelmed. As performance degrades, it’s very easy to set thresholds that show when the network need upgraded or enlarged.

4. Security – Arguably the most important aspect of network management, even though it might not be thought of as a performance aspect. An unsecured network is worse than a useless network, and data breaches can ruin a company. So how does this play into performance management?

By monitoring netflow performance, it’s easy to see where the most resources are being used. Many security attacks drain resources, so if there are resource spikes in unusual areas it can point to a security flaw. With proper software, these issues can be not only monitored, but also recorded and corrected.

5. Usability – Unfortunately, not all employees have a working knowledge of how networks operate. In fact, as many in IT support will attest, most employees aren’t tech savvy. However, most employees will need to use the network as part of their daily work. This conflict is why usability is so important. The easiest way to minimize training costs with any network management program is to ensure that it is as user-friendly as possible.

The fanciest, most impressive network performance management system isn’t worth anything if no one knows how to use and optimize it properly. Even if the IT department has no issues with it, the reports and general information should be as easy to decipher as possible.

Is your network as optimized as it could be? Are you able to monitor the network’s performance and flow, or do network forensics to determine where issues are? Don’t try to tackle all of this on your own, contact us and let us help you support your business with the best network monitoring for your specific needs.

5 Perks of Network Performance Management

Thanks to NetFlow Auditor for the article.

Benefits of Network Security Forensics

The networks that your business operates on are often open and complex.

Your IT department is responsible for mitigating network risks, managing performance and auditing data to ensure functionality.

Using NetFlow forensics can help your IT team maintain the competitiveness and reliability of the systems required to run your business.
Benefits of Network Security Forensics

In IT, network security forensics involves the monitoring and analysis of your network’s traffic to gather information, obtain legal evidence and detect network intrusions.

These activities help keep your company perform the following actions.

  • Adjust to increased data and NetFlow volumes
  • Identify heightened security vulnerabilities and threats
  • Align with corporate and legislative compliance requirements
  • Contain network costs
  • Analyze network performance demands
  • Recommend budget-friendly implementations and system upgrades

NetFlow forensics helps your company maintain accountability and trace usage; these functions become increasingly difficult as your network becomes more intricate.

The more systems your network relies on, the more difficult this process becomes.

While your company likely has standard security measures in place, e.g. firewalls, intrusion detection systems and sniffers, they lack the capability to record all network activity.

Tracking all your network activity in real-time at granular levels is critical to the success of your organization.

Until recently, the ability to perform this type of network forensics has been limited due to a lack of scalability.

Now, there are web-based solutions that can collect and store this data to assist your IT department with this daunting task.

Solution capabilities include:

  • Record NetFlow data at a micro level
  • Discover security breaches and alert system administrators in real-time
  • Identify trends and establish performance baselines
  • React to irregular traffic movements and applications
  • Better provisioning of network services

The ability to capture all of this activity will empower your IT department to provide more thorough analysis and take faster action to resolve system issues.

But, before your company can realize the full value of NetFlow forensics, your team needs to have a clear understanding of how to use this intelligence to take full advantage of these detailed investigative activities.

Gathering the data through automation is a relatively simple process once the required automation tools have been implemented.

Understanding how to organize these massive amounts of data into clear, concise and actionable findings is an additional skill set that must be developed within your IT team.

Having a team member, whether internal or via a third-party vendor, that can aggregate your findings and create visual representations that can be understood by non-technical team members is a necessary part of NetFlow forensics. It is important to stress the necessity of visualization; this technique makes it much easier to articulate the importance of findings.

In order to accurately and succinctly visualize security issues, your IT staff must have a deep understanding of the standard protocols of your network. Without this level of understanding, the ability to analyze and investigate security issues is limited, if not impossible.

Utilizing a software to support the audit functions required to perform NetFlow forensics will help your company support the IT staff in the gathering and tracking of these standard protocols.

Being able to identify, track and monitor the protocols in an automated manner will enhance your staff’s ability to understand and assess the impact of these protocols on network performance and security. It will also allow you to quickly assess the impact of changes driven by real-time monitoring of your network processes.

Sound like a daunting task?

It doesn’t have to be. Choose a partner to support your efforts and help you build the right NetFlow forensics configuration to support your business.

Contact us today and let us help you manage your company’s IT network.

Benefits of Network Security Forensics
Thanks to NetFlow Auditor for the article.