The Case for Carrier Network Management Services:
Today’s networks for a multi-site environment are infrastructure intensive. This infrastructure is costly, environmentally sensitive and absolutely mission critical. Further, multi-data center strategies for redundancy or disaster recovery have added to this infrastructure. The number of routers, switches and firewalls running in synchronized fashion necessary for production and replication traffic can be very significant. When a route or piece of equipment goes down for any reason, the results can be annoying at best and very costly at worst. Therefore, when outages occur it should be prioritized to expeditiously repair the affected link. Yet, due to interoperability issues with carrier circuits and customer owned equipment, lack of knowledge of inventories and circuit IDs, confusing and varied maintenance contracts and lack of manpower or expertise in running in-house tools all have contributed to an environment where fixing a broken link can be very cumbersome and time consuming. All the while, the business is running in a sub-optimized fashion if at all and taking a toll on the business. Luckily, an option exists to mitigate the frustration and business loss; contract the network carriers to do this for you.
The first big advantage is that you eliminate the potential for the inevitable “finger pointing.” The carriers who staff NOCs 24 x 7 (by the way, you don’t!) can be alerted the moment an outage occurs and can begin troubleshooting immediately. Because they are responsible for both the circuits and terminating equipment, they trouble shoot to definitive location and then dispatch the appropriate teams that can provide remedy. No longer will the LAN vendor or IT staff waist time arguing with the carriers over where the fault lies. The speed to repair increases significantly. And, these break/notify/ fix operations are moving 24×7 so outages occurring after hours will be acted on immediately even in off hours.
The second significant advantage is that costs can be saved in two areas that would be required in absence of carrier provided services. First is network management tools that would monitor and notify the IT team of outages. You would have to purchase, deploy and maintain these applications for your network. Secondly, you would have to hire expertise that would be responsible for this environment. This expertise comes at a premium. And, even at this premium, it is still best-effort in that it is in-house and subject to sickness and vacations and staff turnover. Further, now the IT team has to project manage the fix which usually means coordinating across several vendors and this can be way outside of normal business hours. Many companies today prefer to spend a premium on employees in development areas that add strategic growth to the company versus on monitoring and maintaining infrastructure.
Another aspect worth considering is that the carriers will almost always do this better and more cost effective than an in-house effort. Carriers are managing much larger networks and have the scale to deploy and maintain the best tools. After all, their research and development dollars are spent on developing better methods for network management as their operational excellence depends on it. It is a natural add on to also manage the devices connected to their network. The carriers are also bound by strict SLA’s that they take seriously because it would be costly not to. Any in-house organization is best- effort.
Many carriers also bundle network management and network health reporting as part of these services so IT can take a proactive role in infrastructure planning. Dashboards deliver easy to interpret data with tools like trend reports, top utilization devices, network maps with up/down status, inventory and addressing among others. This gives IT the tools to make proactive and informed decisions about infrastructure and to maintain involvement and management even though monitoring and maintenance is outsourced.
IT staff has necessarily become more specialized due to the plethora of areas they are required to address like infrastructure (data center, LAN, WAN, server, security, remote users), applications, compliance, disaster recovery , business continuance, business process and development. To the extent that an in-house team can or should be used in a more strategic role than monitoring and maintaining infrastructure should certainly be considered. Roles such as application integration, exploitation of new markets or efficiency gaining processes can arguably bring more advantage to a company. Companies interested in attracting and retaining the best and brightest and keeping their morale high, might also consider that there are more stimulating roles and projects than monitoring and maintaining switches and routers and project managing their repairs.
There has never been a more conducive environment for outsourcing the monitoring and maintenance of your network infrastructure to the carrier who provides the circuits or to a third party entity who will manage it end-to-end. You will enjoy a more professional and predictable environment that allows IT to be more proactive and strategic. For all these many and varied reasons, moving the management of your network devices to your carrier will put you dollars and sense ahead.