Visibility: The 4th Pillar of Computing
Why choosing the right network visibility solution is now more important than ever.
For at least the last half-century, the combination of computing power, storage and bandwidth were sufficient to run an IT department and help employees meet their engineering, scientific or business goals.
Not any longer.
Over the past few years, a fourth pillar of computing has emerged with impressive speed, driven by an explosive increase in distributed computing—and associated cyber risk.
What Is Visibility?
When computing was largely conducted on-premises, monitoring all activities on the network and pinpointing issues around performance, security and availability were relatively straightforward.
Today, the largest organizations are deploying applications across private data centers, public clouds, co-location facilities, branch locations and edge locations. Employees, partners and customers are connecting to these digital ecosystems from home, office, airport and everywhere in between. You could say that as large organizations test the limits of what’s possible, they’re also testing the limits of what’s manageable.
All this complexity exposes the essential challenge of computing today: If it’s not visible, it’s not manageable.
Without a clear, direct line of sight—in real time—into operations that may encompass thousands of servers and millions of users, the risk to customer experience linked to device breakdowns or loss of sensitive data due to security breaches rises dramatically. Discovering which service, device or connection is at the root of the problem may take hours, with broadband communications, financial transfers or even patients’ lives hanging in the balance.
With true visibility into computing operations, however, IT departments can maintain a continuous, up-to-the-minute understanding of their system’s behavior as well as the interrelationships between its various components and users. Visibility at this level can only be achieved when every last bit of data that flows through a network is observed.
3 Visibility Essentials
Just as myriad server or storage options are available on the market, visibility solutions are, too, and come in many flavors. However, all visibility options are not created equal.
Here are three requirements for the visibility you need to build an accountable, transparent, high-performance enterprise, communication service provider or governmental organization.
- It’s based on true real-time operational data. Just as you can’t write a credible news story based on thirdhand information, you can’t build visibility on proxies for what’s really happening within your network. That's why the ability to do deep packet inspection (DPI) of all the data passing through your network is essential. It’s also why cybersecurity, as well as operations, should be built on DPI-level analysis in this complex new world.
- It’s implemented holistically. Visibility that addresses only part of your network predictably gives you only a blindered view of the whole. In modern IT environments where servers can be spun up and down in a matter of seconds, you must be able to capture and interrogate all the data across every corner of your ecosystem, so you can immediately get to the heart of a problem, wherever it may arise.
- It’s infinitely scalable. Whether you have one data center or hundreds, there should be no limit to your ability to scale your visibility with your infrastructure, even as your organization moves to 25-, 50-, 100-gigabit networking—or beyond.
What most technology companies call a visibility solution falls far short of these requirements.
Most interrogate network data based on data logs, NetFlow, sample data or subsets of network data, which really are the “exhaust fumes” of the network. These data sources are not part of operations, they can be modified or deleted, and they don’t reflect the actual network activity as computers talk to other computers.
Some visibility solutions address only targeted network use cases or isolated security problems, strategies that cannot comprehensively manage issues of cyber risk, mission-critical applications and unified communications.
And many visibility solutions simply do not have the engineering horsepower to scale to new networking speeds, create metadata and manage storage for retrospective event analysis, or support millions or tens of millions of users.
If you are an organization the world can’t live without, your visibility solution must offer automated, real-time analysis and perform in a borderless ecosystem that extends to multiple physical and virtualized environments.
For all these reasons, it’s critical to seek out a visibility solution from a partner whose sole focus is to make your digital ecosystem fully visible, right down to the packets.
To put it another way, if your corporate mandate is to be unstoppable, your network visibility solution must be as well.
Learn more about NETSCOUT’s Visibility Without Borders platform.