I just recently completed and published a major research project on Application-aware Network Performance Management (ANPM), including detailed analyses of solutions offered by 18 independent vendors. You can find a summary copy of the report here. Application awareness is one of the hottest sectors within network management, and one that offers a unique and increasingly valuable attribute – the ability to deliver direct visibility into how end users / customers consume IT services and applications – the connection point between IT and actual business process.
A lot of what I studied in the report represented the needs and interests of enterprise network engineering and operations, but it must also be said that many, if not most of the same, are also of direct interest to the service provider community. As it turns out, and this should be a surprise to no one, many if not most network management technology providers offer solutions in both sectors. For example, twelve of the 18 vendors covered in the ANPM Radar Report offer specific product adaptations to meet the needs of service providers. Future posts will delve into the nexus between these two worlds – one that I believe is important because there is so much for each to share with the other.
There is also an interesting set of parallels between application-awareness for the purposes of monitoring and protecting network and service quality (generally referred to as service assurance) and for the purposes of security monitoring. ANPM solutions are getting increasingly sophisticated when it comes to building time-sensitive behavior models so that they can more proactively recognize what is normal and what is abnormal on a day-of-week and hour-of-day basis. That same sort of behavior analysis can be used to recognize nefarious and threatening patterns of behaviors, which are increasingly happening up in the upper layers of the stack, where applications live, and where simply monitoring layers 2-4 is wholly insufficient.
Yet another area that is growing incredibly fast is that of application awareness in the service of network optimization. WAN optimization product sales and revenues continue to grow at an impressive, recession-proof clip – clearly the result of compelling returns for the investment. Many (including myself) believed that this technology area would eventually fold back into edge routing, but there has been such rapid change in the application layers that the opposite is happening – edge routing is becoming the simpler, more well-understood and less resource-intensive task while traffic optimization has grown into a significant and complex function. We’ll keep an eye on this trend, as well as the emerging role that network optimization must play in remote cloud service scenarios.
In EMA’s view, application awareness is the key to service awareness, and for network managers to play a meaningful and constructive role in IT’s evolution towards service-oriented operations.