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January 2010 | Volume 13 / Number 1
Integrator’s Corner

What to Consider in Modernizing Your Network Monitoring Solution

By: Gus Bekdash

In the beginning, the monitoring infrastructure was the users. Troubleshooting was done by primitive tools and elimination. The network was the usual suspect for any degradation. Mean time to repair was quite long, but it was acceptable.

Not anymore.

The network is now critical for human as well as machine communication. Problems should really be detected and resolved before users notice them and even before they become problems. Time to identify and engage the proper resources should be zero, and some problems now can be resolved automatically in seconds.

Modern monitoring solutions come in many forms, but all of which essentially trade capex and opex. At one end, an IT organization can deploy a number of specialized solutions. They range from free to mid-priced, and they are employed either because they are cheap or to meet special needs. However, maintaining many separate monitoring systems increases opex in the long run.

Somewhere in the middle, one can deploy a modular system (such as BMC, HP OpenView, IBM (News - Alert) Tivoli or others) that monitors many classes of devices and applications either organically or by integration with other “south” systems. Modular systems provide broad coverage from one console, reduce opex and increase quality. However, they usually require considerable capex.

At the other end, some IT organizations outsource monitoring to managed services providers, which have monitoring offers ranging from basic to sophisticated. Such services require little or no capital investment, but usually require long commitments. Many MSPs have a record of reducing total cost while increasing quality.

Organizations exploring monitoring solutions should do the following:

  • work with a vendor that can provide consulting about tools, processes and people, as well as help them evaluate representative solutions from all the options above;
  • define clear quality and financial objectives and use them to evaluate the options above;
  • keep in mind that the goal is to improve service and application availability not to monitor boxes, as monitoring hardware is not enough; and
  • consider integrating monitoring vertically with other operational functions such as asset, incident and configuration management, capacity planning and security and patch management.

Gus Bekdash is a managing consultant at Forsythe Solutions Group (

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