The history of Enterprise Software is riddled with examples of organizations never having realized the value of purchased solutions given the high-cost and complexity of the “integration hurdle.” Based on past experiences and today’s environment, MSPs and businesses want enterprise software solutions that can be made operational quickly, without dependence on lengthy integration or implementation projects. Even if this requires forgoing some of the advanced functionality promised by the more complicated solutions.
Fortunately, most of today’s network monitoring software systems can quickly, and fairly inexpensively, start performing basic infrastructure management for industry standard devices. Unlike, say a billing application, no complex integration with other enterprise systems, such as ordering or fulfillment, is required to get going out of the gate. That said, MSPs need to be careful that the monitoring software does not become stranded on an island, and that the solution indeed does have the flexible APIs and interfaces to connect with custom data sources and enterprise applications, and link into other IT service management processes (read whitepaper on ITIL alignment).
With a less complete tool, the immediate satisfaction from seeing metrics being gathered and alarms being displayed on status screens (for a relatively low starter price) can quickly give way to challenges further down the road as your business evolves. In a world where success is measured on a quarterly basis and where shorter horizons tend to favor decisions based on tactical factors, stepping back and taking a longer-term, strategic view in selecting your network monitoring software will pay dividends. I am not suggesting that you discount the ability to quickly operationalize the software, as that is table stakes. But, I am recommending that you consider the ability of the software to adapt to and interact with your changing IT environment over time.
How to Get Started
Let me share an illustrative example of the importance of considering a broader set of factors in selecting your network monitoring software solution. A few years back, a newly launched MSP’s immediate and somewhat moderate monitoring needs centered around ensuring the performance of the core IT infrastructure consisting of a number of switches and physical servers. Metrics needed to be captured and compared against thresholds, alarms were required to be displayed on an event management console, and notifications had to be emailed to the operations technicians.
Within three months of going live, the need arose to capture and process performance metrics from two custom applications. The MSP was able to utilize the monitoring software’s universal, external data-feed API to inject these metrics into the system, and then apply custom rules for event generation. The performance data and alarms were displayed alongside those of the other standard devices. As the MSP’s business accelerated rapidly, the operations team quadrupled in size and the IT team implemented a centralized user management application. The monitoring software had the integration framework to override the inbuilt authentication, and was able to utilize the new external authentication database to control access to the system.
The MSP’s service offerings continued to expand, and along with that the heterogeneity of the IT infrastructure increased. The built-in action profiles in the monitoring system that are triggered when events occur were no longer adequate. These standard action profiles were augmented using the supported custom plug-in framework, which was capable of running external programs as well. Device names and test information was easily passed to an external application to build highly flexible actions, some of which involved using the monitoring system’s API to query the state of another device before executing a corrective action. Additionally, certain performance data needed to be fed into an external web portal application, which again was facilitated by the network monitoring software’s data access API.
Although the immediate monitoring needs of the MSP were pretty basic when the software purchase decision was made, the team had considered extensibility and integration-support as part of their evaluation criteria. They recognized that these were important future requirements. Make sure your network monitoring software system is not stranded, and can indeed keep up with your evolving business.