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This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala's blog.

When it comes to managing the network, even realtime monitoring isn’t fast enough anymore. You need to be able to predict what will happen next. I’ve recently started tracking a technology that can help with this challenge.  There’s no name for this market but I like to think of it as the Traffic Visibility Networking (TVN) market. 

Let me explain.  IT has evolved more the past five years than maybe any other five year period in history.   We have made our environments more virtual and more mobile.  We’ve brought consumer technologies into our environment and pushed traditional IT out into the cloud.  All of this to improve resource utilization and to create a more flexible IT environment – and it’s worked!

However, there’s a downside to all of this too.  IT is now much more complex that it was even five years ago and this is creating a widely increasing complexity gap between IT skills and IT’s ability to run the environment.  I’m not saying IT is any less smart, in fact the IT guys I know are far smarter and more savvy that I ever was in my day but complexity is outpacing knowledge. 

As an example, consider voice.  Voice was easy.  There was a PBX, phones and cables.  There was exactly one way to deploy it and troubleshoot it (check the phone, cable or PBX).  Today the call servers can be physical, cloud based or virtual.  They can be located locally in a branch, departmentally, a company’s data center or hosting provider.  The end points can be IP phones, soft phones, mobile clients or web enabled applications.  The connectivity can be WiFi, cellular or wired.  Each one of these options adds to the flexibility of deployment, but it jacks up the complexity level.  The complexity chasm is growing.

To me, one of the most critical elements in troubleshooting this ever-changing environment is to know the network.  And by that, I mean not just understanding what network is deployed where – I mean understanding all the devices that are network connected and the interactions between them. 

Historically this hasn’t been an easy thing to do but but I think Traffic Visibility Networking (TVN) will make it easier.  The market is led by Gigamon but also includes companies such as NetOptics, VSS Monitoring and Apcon. 

Historically, visibility has been done with, probes, agents, sniffers and other such devices that were deployed on an as-needed basis.  These tools were sufficient in a world where best effort was the norm.  A virtualized, mobile enterprise requires a more pervasive tool that can provide real time visual information that can scale with the network. 

The TVN providers offer highly scalable in-line solutions that can monitor information in real time.  This allows network managers to understand what normal operations looks like and then be able to predict when problems will occur through changes in network traffic flows.  This is crucial to managing the network, meeting compliance requirements and ensuring a consistent user experience. 

Virtualization, consumerization and mobility have had a dramatic change on IT.  Now the network needs to change as well for companies to take the next step forward with evolving IT.  Network managers should take a strong look at TVN solutions to help optimize the network as the IT environment around it changes.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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