Chris LaPoint

Network and Systems Management

Opportunity in chaos: fighting the war on network complexity

War may comprise chaos, but it also presents opportunity — a rule of thumb that applies not only to the battlefield, but also the management of military network-defense systems. 

The days of straightforward – albeit cumbersome – management of physical locations and switches are rapidly declining as things quickly move into a more virtualized realm. And while virtual and cloud-based technologies are great for monitoring drones, UAVs and widely dispersed troops, they’ve added a significant layer of network management complexity for personnel who are already under-staffed, under-trained, and constantly on the move.

Armed forces’ commitment to new technologies is also moving forward in an effort to create a more streamlined, mobile military. This is happening so quickly that personnel are finding it difficult to get up to speed on managing their networks while still focusing on defense. For example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency first started exploring cloud computing in 2011; a little more than two years later, all branches of the U.S. military have adopted cloud-focused policies. That’s on top of the other technologies warfighters are being asked to become accustomed to — all while doing their “day jobs.”  Personnel are no longer defending borders, but managing IT.

It’s chaotic, to be sure. But in chaos there resides the opportunity to simplify the management of networked defense systems.

On the surface this may seem daunting, particularly for personnel who are continually on the move, with little time to devote to sorting through the spaghetti-like strands of system complexity. But the possibility of simplification has been made attainable by network management software.

The growing adoption of network management software is a result of the times our military lives in.  Like all large organizations, the services are struggling with several key issues, including complexity and the need to manage and make sense of extraordinary amounts of information and data. In fact, industry expert Jim Frey of EMA has stated that big data can now be tied to the need for better network management due to the explosive amount of data that both federal and private organizations are trying to manage. This is not to mention the expanding use of private clouds, software defined networking and more – factors that only add to the chaos.But network management software provides two very important benefits that can help greatly simplify defense systems management:

  • A holistic view of the entire network. Administrators can manage the entire network, whether they are in Kandahar or Kuwait, and respond quickly and decisively to potential threats. These threats could be anything, from malware infecting the system to potential network issues that could result in loss of communications, posing serious problems for an information-driven military.  Software can automatically alert them to potential issues before they occur, and personnel can easily address and manage these issues from a central control panel.
  • Easy installation and customization. Unlike traditional solutions, which often require the purchase of new hardware and software, extensive customization and intensive training, network management software can be installed, customized and up and running within a few hours. Intuitive interfaces and easy-to-understand tutorials reduce training time to minutes, rather than days or weeks.

The need for network management software stems from the increasing demand for virtualization. This, in turn, is being driven by the military’s desire to deliberately reduce its physical footprint, save costs and increase efficiency. Smaller, more virtual IT systems require less energy and power, thereby reducing the need for fuel and bulky, expensive IT deployments. Simultaneously, network management software allows for greater flexibility and mobility. Both fit the need for lighter IT solutions that are perfectly suitable for on-the-go armed forces that should be more concerned with managing defense than IT.

Leaders understand that sometimes the best way to win a battle is to take the easiest route — not fighting at all. Network management software simplifies things by helping personnel subdue the enemy of complexity from anywhere, without having to put up a fight.

About the Author

Chris LaPoint is vice president of product management at IT management software provider SolarWinds, based in Austin, Texas.

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