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May 17, 2010

Problem Solving a Necessity to Drive Effective Network Management

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

In order to effectively manage a network, IT professionals must be able to solve problems. According to a recent Network World piece, the IT manager at Virgin Media was facing increased burdens on his organization with multiple sets of firewalls due to a number of business mergers.

Colin Miles noted that some of these firewalls were managed well and some were not managed at all. With the 100 pairs of firewalls under Virgin Media, just under 70 percent were Check Point. The remaining pairs were mostly Cisco (News - Alert) PIX. All firewalls were being migrated over to Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA).

Miles described the situation as causing massive amounts of pain for the organization. Virgin Media desperately needed to identify a way to centralize the analysis of firewall-policy rules to support 20,000 employees and 800 locations. The company was also supporting partners in India, South Africa and the Philippines.

"We had thousands and thousands of rules going through the firewalls through the country," Miles said in Network World. "We needed to analyze all the rules."

Miles also needed to understand the impact the rules had on the firewall's CPU and memory. As the situation was causing some instability, there was a need to make sure the firewall rules adhered to Payment Card Industry (PCI (News - Alert)) standard or other regulatory regimens.

One tool Miles found useful was Tufin's SecureTrack. This tool pointed at the multi-vendor firewalls, analyzed the traffic, rules and utilization. SecureTrack can check for compliance related to PCI and Sarbanes Oxley Act and can automate configuration change management to ensure corporate policy is met.

A community college in Vancouver, British Columbia faced a different challenge in trying to manage the network - identifying the best switching infrastructure for its environment. The college had built a new health and sciences building and replaced the switches as part of the update.

"They were 10-year-old Cisco and Nortel (News - Alert) switches," said the director of IT at the Vancouver Community College, Ben Guanzon. "They were outdated, so we went out to the different manufacturers to see what fit in the environment."

The college was making their choice based on unionization of its employees as it made the labor pool smaller. This makes it harder to hire IT specialists at certain skill levels and different collective bargaining agreements set limits on schedules.

Enterasys (News - Alert) B and C Series switches were selected due to the fact the gear was easiest to establish access and security publicities for ports without the need for ACL programming. These switches now support an IT infrastructure that includes the campus wireless access points, in addition to VoIP telephony and streaming video.

Virtualization is now also putting the pressure on IT to change the way they do things. For Automated Document Solutions (ADS), the large volume of data the company collects and maintains is now housed on virtualized serves in-house with VMware.

The company also teams with (News - Alert) to upload data from healthcare organizations for retention in storage and backup. added a new set of managed security services for hosted VMware servers under a partnership with security firm StillSecure.

These around-the-clock managed services provided by StillSecure through VMware servers housed at made use of the VMware VMsafe APIs to access the virtual machine hypervisor for around-the-clock security monitoring, management, firewall, intrusion detection and prevention within the cloud-computing platform.

While each of these situations differed in their challenges to the company, each IT professional identified the solution that would best tackle the challenge based on the environment of each organization. Such flexibility is essential to successfully manage a network.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Erin Harrison

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