What Are the Challenges for Today's NextGen Network Administrators?

Today’s data center managers have been tasked with doing more with a smaller hardware budget. Networks are overburdened as a new flood of data from IoT devices have begun streaming in from every corner of the globe. According to McKinsey, the total IoT market size will grow to $3.7B in 2020, attaining a 32.6% CAGR.

Network administrators have always been part hardware troubleshooter, cable slinger, and monitor of data. Now a network administrator must manage technologies that didn’t even exist a decade ago. We’re managing everything from teleworker connectivity and BYOD, to corporate networks to IoT and wireless access. Not to mention security across all these access points. 

What’s changed is our reliance on data centers as the backbone of our digitally obsessed society. The goal of the network administrator is still high availability, where users experience continual access with no network failures from hardware, software, or security breaches. Today, moving network data optimally means installing, testing, securing, scaling and administrating the hardware and software that make up today’s modern server farm.  

These new architectures demand a global network to fit an expanding and distributed customer pool. These frameworks are now recognized as driving the successful implementation of the enterprise organization’s strategic plan. How well network administrators respond to these demands will literally make or break an organization in the future. 

The Global Distributed Data Center 

The new trend in data center infrastructure management (DCIM) is to use global server load balancing to manage traffic across distributed, smaller data centers to take the pressure from larger facilities. There are three key challenges in introducing these global frameworks:  

  • Security includes never-ending management of a series of threats that are steadily increasing. With the proliferation of IoT devices expected over the next few years, along with the complexities of private and virtual clouds, more users, more mobile devices, and an increasing volume of endpoints, network administrators will continue to struggle to stay ahead of hackers. Consumer-specific security threats, such as malware focused on smartphones will continue to threaten the global network as a whole.  

  • Monitoring and maintenance of global networks will become increasingly important. Because we lack integrated reporting and alert capabilities, network administrators will continue to struggle with how to monitor a widening volume of traffic. Machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence may provide the key to network monitoring the various applications and the global delivery of static and dynamic content. 

  • Network performance management will include managing beyond bandwidth, packet loss, or latency. Network administrators must be able to continuously monitor in real-time across a distributed global network, troubleshoot IP-based applications, and assess network readiness for new services before implementing them. 

From design to deployment, tomorrow’s network administrator must engage in the practice of uptime availability and scalability while improving power consumption, distributing, and cooling technologies in the global data center. How they do this is up to the individual, but IoT sensors are already being used to manage remote sensors to monitor humidity, water leaks, and temperature in today’s data centers. 

Mitigating these Challenges 

The one constant in the life of the network administrator is that the job continues to evolve. Today, one on-premise host server can hold dozens of virtual servers, each with mission-critical functions for several different tenants. One outage could have rippling ramifications across companies and continents. 

What’s changed is that many enterprise customers use the data itself as the core of their business. Data centers are responding to these demands by adopting more powerful multi-core processors, BladeSystems, and high-bandwidth interfaces that increase scale.  

In addition, today's network administrator is left dealing with a huge number of federal regulations – from HIPAA, PCI-SS, DPA FISMA, and many more -- and that’s just in the United States! To have such a dispersed, eclectic architecture, along with hefty governance, only complicates an already challenging network administration role. 

Understanding the ecosystem for a dispersed global deployment means that network administrators must adjust their skills to handle these and other issues.  

Some of the ways to mitigate these challenges include: 

  • In addition to adhering to comprehensive Service Assurance, the following options provide insight
    • Develop standard protocols for user privileges, roles, and interoperability. 

    • Leverage machine learning algorithms to work around unreachable data centers or expand capacity when demand is high. 

    • While tiered architecture has long been the de facto methodology being larger server deployments, adopting load balancing across multiple sites will be a guaranteed future state best practice. 

    • Find ways to standardize the data center in order to streamline deployment of hardware. This could include areas such as the density of the rack, engaging assisted lifting equipment, or even leveraging IoT sensors.  

    • Establish a collaborative team to include representation from the c-suite level to meld data center strategies with enterprise goals. 

Meeting the challenges of a dispersed global data center infrastructure means evolving backbone structures to incorporate these and other techniques to improve performance, agility, and reliability.  

Network Administration – Future Predictions 

The network administrator of the future will focus on managing Internet bandwidth and connectivity. For small data centers, networks will move increasingly to the cloud. This makes your pipe even more important; a saturated pipe could spell disaster. Traffic sharing will become even more important in the future. Security will continue to impinge on the traditional network administration role, who will be tasked with drafting corporate security policies and preventing DDOS attacks against the data Center’s Internet provider.  

Today, the data center is the business, and organizations that fail in the efficient operation will negatively affect deployment of day-to-day business applications. What was once the standard in the data center is now being displaced and reshaped into new models. These deployments are the only method for staying ahead of the bandwidth-intensive traffic requirements of the future state. Low-latency server-to-server, intra-server, and machine-to-virtual architectures will keep tomorrow’s network administrator at the forefront of the cloud-computing initiatives of tomorrow.  

If you’re a network admin grappling with visibility for your network(s), have you considered evaluating a service assurance visibility vendor?  Go here to confidently evaluate packet flow solutions for your network.