Network performance management (NPM) identifies the various systems that maintain a networking infrastructure’s optimal performance levels. This includes the tasks of monitoring, troubleshooting, and analyzing a network’s performances to prevent bottlenecks. Cisco’s Network Management Basics illustrate the NMP process as “end stations (managed devices), such as computer systems and other network devices, run software that enables them to send alerts when they recognize problems (for example, when one or more user-determined thresholds are exceeded).”
NPM is a decades-old tool for keeping a pulse on what’s happening in the networking infrastructure. But it remains relevant because modern computing experiences the same issues that haunted networks in the past. The problems often develop from issues stemming from computing innovations. The 2017 Next Gen Software-Defined Everything (SDx) Infrastructure Assurance Report identifies the problems that NPM still faces: “how to efficiently monitor an increasingly diverse and complex set of objects, cope with exponentially growing bandwidths, and the growing need to enable a broader set of management systems with accurate NPM and application performance management (APM) data.”
What is NPM? A Brief History and a Look into Its Future
NPM’s humble beginnings start in the early 1980s. This time period saw an expansive use of networking technologies with the compounding problem that each new technology requires its own IT expert. The conglomeration of networking technologies in a company’s IT system led to a mess of various networking issues. Each networking hiccup had different protocols for resolving the problem. The industry then realized that they need an automated network management method to streamline the discovery and resolution of problems for the network infrastructures.
The automated network performance management process was in place by the 1990s. It monitored CPUs, memory storage, and network packets. It also reviewed router’s performance analytics to ports at the minuscular level.
Fast-forward to present day. NPM evolved to analyze modern technology’s performance metrics, such as hybrid infrastructures, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Current NPM is capable of troubleshooting, root cause analysis, capacity planning, service level agreement monitoring and management, and overall resource reporting for end-users. However, a common issue that frustrated IT professionals in the 1980s still plagues network administrators today – NPM’s lack of visibility to prevent future issues instead of realizing after the problems occur. This lack of foresight creates a retroactive environment within network monitoring instead of being proactive in solving network malfunctions.
It’s important to note that emerging new technology possesses unique management issues that will require NMP to evolve in order to solve. The future NPM and Application Performance Managment (APM) solutions are predicted to merge into one management system as software-defined networking (SDN) and network virtualization (NV) converge.
Stanford University created this directory of all the network monitoring tools produced throughout time. It’s overwhelming at first glance, but it showcases the substantial amount of research, time, and iterations of the network management process.