The first thing that catches your attention when reading EMA’s Network Management Megatrends 2022 report—a biennial study the research firm has been producing since 2008—are the words: “Network Operations: Red Alert.”
Over the years, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) has been benchmarking networking trends large and small, from cloud to IoT. But this year, the report is more ominous.
“EMA sees an alarming warning sign. The effectiveness of network operations teams is declining,” reads the report, with data showing a precipitous decline in the number of respondents who believe their network operations groups are completely successful—from 49 per cent in 2016 to a mere 27 per cent in 2022.
So what’s going on?
Based on survey results from more than 400 IT organizations in North America and Europe, EMA found that a double-whammy of network data quality and a shortage of skilled IT personnel are the biggest challenges to NetOps.
Some of the key findings from the report include:
- 31% of all IT service problems are reactive (caught by users, not NetOps)
- only 34% of alerts from network monitoring tools are actionable
- only 5% of IT organizations find it easy to hire and retain networking personnel
How NetOps is changing
EMA’s report indicates a fundamental shift in NetOps strategies. Back in 2008, the focus was on server virtualization. This year, virtualization ranks No. 14 on the list, with public cloud, SaaS applications and cloud-native application architectures now the most critical drivers of their enterprise networking strategies.
Almost all enterprises in the survey (nearly 99 per cent) have adopted public cloud, with 72 per cent moving into a multi-cloud strategy using at least two Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers. The shift to multi-cloud combined with the work-from-anywhere model means that data centre modernization is an increasingly urgent priority.
And this year, WAN transformation “now dominates the enterprise networking world,” with enterprises prioritizing network performance management tools, network automation and data centre SDN.
EMA found that larger enterprises are also more likely to invest in private 5G and Wi-Fi 6/6E. But across the board IoT is driving investments in network security, network performance monitoring and network automation.
New problems for a new era
NetOps teams are struggling because of increased complexity in IT infrastructure and services. While most companies are now multi-cloud—which introduces a host of complexity into their environment—only 18 per cent of respondents believe they are effective at cloud monitoring with network tools.
In part, this could be due to network management tool sprawl. The more tools, the more problems caused by manual errors—and EMA says most network teams use anywhere from four to 15 tools. One anonymous IT operations manager quoted in the report says their organization is using close to 20 tools from six to eight vendors.
Add to that the skills shortage, and it’s even more of a struggle—particularly for small and mid-sized enterprises. Respondents indicate they’re especially struggling to hire people with network security, network automation and network monitoring skills.
The good news
While this all sounds very dire, finding solutions means recognizing where the issues stem from. For example, hybrid work is here to stay, as is multi-cloud. It’s also likely that we’ll be facing an IT skills shortage for years to come. Areas where technology can be consolidated or even automated can help mitigate complexity and lack of IT resources.
“EMA research has often found that an effective network management toolset will make network operations teams more efficient and effective. To some degree, improved efficiency should help mitigate shortages in skilled networking personnel,” says the report.
There are other solutions, too. The EMA report indicates that NetOps teams are starting to collaborate with DevOps and, in some cases, fully integrating—which could help in areas like security policies, application optimization and network capacity planning. While this is easier said than done, collaboration could erase silos and create efficiencies.
While the challenges are immense, they’re not going away. End-to-end network visibility is critical—from multi-cloud, SaaS and edge services, through to home wireless—to transform NetOps in the era of multi-cloud and work-from-anywhere.