[Case Study] Nextlink Takes Network Management to the Next Level with Opmantek

[Case Study] Nextlink Takes Network Management to the Next Level with Opmantek

This Case Study covers how we take organizations from reactive to proactive with the ability to scale and leverage more insights into the projects they’re working on. The following case study details actionable guidance that strengthened internet service provider Nextlink’s Network Management capabilities and took them to the next level. Download the asset below.

Key Points:

Who

Nextlink Internet is an internet service provider delivering high-speed internet and voice services throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. Since 2012, Nextlink has become one of the largest wireless internet service providers in the nation. 

Challenge

Nextlink wanted to improve the stability of its automated provisioning system as well as its network. Nextlink’s previous monitoring system would send an alarm if one of the previously configured rules was triggered, but it didn’t provide the solution that they were looking for.

Situation

“Our fast-paced operations are growing every day, so we need something that can grow with us,” said Jordan Long, Director of Network Operations, Nextlink. “We wanted something that would not just assist with our operations center, but an automated solution that would monitor for issues throughout our platform, automate the troubleshooting tasks and make configuration changes when an alarm was raised. We also wanted a solution that could share data about our operations to drive new projects.”

Get the Case Study

Packet Pushers: Detect, Diagnose, And Act Podcast

Packet Pushers: Detect, Diagnose, And Act Podcast


Podcast: Download (46.2MB)
Keith Sinclair, CTO and progenitor of NMIS, joins Greg Ferro on Packet Pushers

They discuss:

  • What NMIS does and how it works
  • Protocol support including SNMP, WMI, SSH, RESTful APIs, and more
  • The persistence of SNMP
  • Opmantek’s approach of detect, diagnose, and act
  • Automation capabilities
  • How NMIS uses dashboards, portals, and maps

Discovery to Monitoring, Automatic & On Your Terms

Discovery to Monitoring, Automatic & On Your Terms

Introduction

So you have this great discovery and auditing tool called Open-AudIT and you also have an amazing monitoring tool called NMIS. How can you automatically take your discovered devices and have NMIS monitor them…and why would you want to?

With version 4.2.0 of Open-AudIT, we have re-implemented Integrations in an extremely easy-to-use yet extremely configurable way.

Why?

Discovery provides network transparency. Monitoring provides network visibility. Both are essential to good network management and go hand-in-hand with diagnosing network performance issues and device management and lifecycle.

You cannot manage something if you don’t know it exists, and you cannot plan for the future if you don’t know the current performance of your devices – be they desktops, servers, switches, or routers.

Why wouldn’t you want the ability to automatically monitor select device types (for example) as they come online? You can set up a scheduled Integration and automatically include all discovered routers and switches.

 

Let that sink in for a moment.

Automatically monitor devices without having to set them up individually in your monitoring solution. From discovery to monitoring automatically, on your terms.

 

Less time spent entering details.

More accurate information with zero possibility of spelling mistakes mistyped credentials, etc.

No double handling of information between systems is required.

 

It just works.

Discover it in Open-AudIT, monitor it in NMIS – seamlessly.

 

How does it work?

Integrations take a list of devices from NMIS and a list of devices from Open-AudIT. They match the devices based on selected attributes, combine their attributes according to which system (NMIS or Open-AudIT) should be the point of truth, and update both systems based on any changes.

The list of devices may actually be empty on either side. We can restrict the device list on either side based on device attributes. We can select attributes to be stored – even if they don’t exist in Open-AudIT. NMIS and Open-AudIT don’t even need to be on the same server. There is so much flexibility!

But with great flexibility, comes (potentially) great complexity. This is an area we are particularly proud of. We’ve kept the creation of an Integration as easy as possible. At its most simple level, if NMIS and Open-AudIT are installed on the same server, you can click a ‘create’ button and everything is automatically done for you. You don’t need to supply any information. We’ve chosen sensible defaults and the Integration just works.

On the other end of the scale, you might have NMIS running on Debian and Open-AudIT running on Windows. You might wish to only integrate devices that are routers. You might even have some fields in NMIS that don’t exist in Open-AudIT, – but you wish to track and be able to edit them in Open-AudIT which then updates NMIS. It’s all completely achievable with just a few clicks.

More than the simple integration above, – but still very easy to accomplish.

No code to write, just a simple-to-use web interface. Oh, – and there is also the JSON RESTful based Open-AudIT API as well.

Questions

Now let’s back up a little bit and set the scene. You’ve been using Open-AudIT for a while and have discovered some devices on your network. You have working credentials for these devices and can see their configuration. You may have computers, switches, printers, routers, firewalls, etc.

How can we easily send some of these devices to NMIS for monitoring?
When you create an Integration in Open-AudIT, by default we include all discovered devices that have working SNMP credentials. However,  you might not want every device integrated with NMIS. Some of your servers, for example, may use SNMP – but you don’t need NMIS monitoring them. Integration has a section to select which devices to include from Open-AudIT. Every device is defaulted to have its “manage_in_nmis” attribute set to “y”. There is also a rule in Open-AudIT that sets this attribute if we talk to the device using SNMP.

 

But in this example, we don’t want every SNMP talking device, we only want our routers in NMIS.

In this instance, we can simply change the used attribute to “type” (instead of “manage_in_nmis”) and the value of that attribute to “router” (instead of “y”) – then we’re done!

What if I want the SNMP Community string to be defined in NMIS, not Open-AudIT?
An Integration contains a list of the fields used by both systems (NMIS and Open-AudIT). Each field has a flag that defines its ‘priority’. This can be set to either NMIS or Open-AudIT (actually stored as external or internal). Just select NMIS for the priority for the NMIS → configuration. community field and if this value is changed in NMIS, the next time the Integration is run Open-AudIT will be updated.

How can I automatically run the Integration?
Integrations can be scheduled within Open-AudIT just like discoveries, queries, baselines, et al. You can choose to run an Integration on whatever time frame you choose.

What if I’m an NMIS user, have just installed Open-AudIT, and don’t have any devices in it?
Simply run the default Integration. Your NMIS devices will be sent to Open-AudIT and discovered automatically. Open-AudIT stores more information about the make-up of a device, as opposed to NMIS’s performance data. When you run an Integration; Open-AudIT has the device’s IP and the device’s credentials.  You can then run a discovery and retrieve everything Open-AudIT can.

 

Again – this is configurable. You might not wish to run a discovery on the device – that’s up to you! To enable or disable a discovery is a single attribute. Click, done!

Making it Happen
As usual, the Open-AudIT wiki has all the technical details you should need. Check the Integrations page and if you still have questions, please do ask in the Community Forums.

What have we Learnt through Navigating in an Economic Downturn & Pandemic?

What have we Learnt through Navigating in an Economic Downturn & Pandemic?

Between suffering from uncertainty to naturally flourishing, the ability to adapt out of dead market space will have made all the difference for your business in the past year. Whether you are in a country that is on track for normality or being hit by a new wave of infections – All businesses have needed to evolve.

 

For those of us operating in the tech industry, we have experienced several significant economic events – especially the .com crash of 2000 and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. We know what happens during an economic slowdown while there are some unique factors at play in relation to COVID-19; here is what we have learned.

 

Innovation should not be put off

Undergoing a 3-year change progression in a mere month was and continues to be a reality for many businesses across the globe. On countless occasions funds have been pulled from investments, particularly those in technology; deemed as a costly non-essential to cut in order to keep the boat floating. However, innovation needs to be cultivated and fed, without businesses prioritising technology their future fitness will remain grim. Opmantek’s automated network management tools were built on the premise of empowering companies. These tools give users the flexibility to operate in diverse environments with speed and scale at a fraction of the cost so you can keep innovating.

 

Having healthy finances is necessary

In the IT industry, an error caused by a triggered event in your network could cost a wave of rippling expenses. During periods of economic uncertainty what you don’t know can hurt you. Utilising technology such as one of Opmantek’s opEvents will reduce the impact of network faults and failures using proactive event management. Adding tools such as these to your arsenal allows you to gleam intelligent insights to make educated data and cost-effective driven decisions.

 

Optimising your data is the way forward

Your market no matter which side of it you are on has changed, so your business needs to change with it. More data, more data, more data, let’s face it cultivating and finding quality data is a superpower. So how is it possible to see it all? How can it be automatically configured and how can you keep up with it when it changes? Most organizations cannot give accurate location data of their assets, Open-AudIT gives you this information in seconds. Reduce the degree of uncertainty and make data-driven decisions, simply by running tools such as Open-AudIT to develop meaningful reports and resources. Optimising your data is the way forward, to learn how you can audit everything on your network with Open-AudIT book a demo session with our experts here.

 

Continual agility across all facets of business will be imperative to navigate through the next phase of this economic climate. Those that are familiar with nimble project management within the software development world – use similar methods in your financials too –be very conscious that your ability to plan twelve months is now a lot lower than it used to be and you need to undertake agile planning and forecasting. This will be a time of continual change however by; continually pushing innovation and utilising tools that give you the best possible view of your data to drive decision-making process, the path forward will be a lot clearer to navigate.

 

Auditing your network, without credentials.

Auditing your network, without credentials.

Now that I have your attention, how can we possibly audit a network and find all the juicy details about the devices upon it, without having high level credentials to talk to those devices?

Well, it’s a bit of a mistruth. Or a caveat. Or whatever you want to call it. We definitely can do this, but for devices such as routers, printers and switches you will need a minimal set (read only, minimum access level) of SNMP credentials. Computers can be audited without any credentials being stored in Open-AudIT.

“How can you do that?”, “It won’t work on my network, my network and devices are locked down”. Yes, yes, your network is perfectly secure, I understand. In that case you are the perfect candidate to implement network discovery and auditing in this fashion.

So how do we do this? Well, as mentioned, first source a set of SNMP credentials that allow the minimal level of access. Do not worry about credentials for Windows, Linux or any other computer OS.

Next configure Open-AudIT to match devices based on IP address. Note that if you have devices that frequently change IP, you may need to enable this on a per discovery basis to avoid too many false positive device matches. Note that even this can be negated by using a collector per subnet to run discoveries.

Once you have your minimal SNMP credentials and have created and configured a subnet discovery, run it. Naturally devices without credentials will probably be classed as unclassified or even unknown. That is expected – no credentials, remember.

Next use your management software to deploy the audit scripts to the appropriate operating system for each device. For Linux machines (for example), you can use Puppet, Chef or Ansible to push the audit_linux.sh script. Windows domain users also have the option to deploy and run the script at domain login. Then create a cron job (or scheduled task under Windows) to run the audit script on a schedule of your choosing and submit the results to your Open-AudIT server.

Then you should check for unclassified or unknown devices within Open-AudIT and work through them, determining what it is and remediate as necessary.

As the audit script results are submitted, the unclassified or unknown devices should be matched and decrease in number.

Eventually you should have zero unclassified or unknown devices. You have just discovered and audited your network using only a minimal set of SNMP (read only) credentials. You still have all the data Open-AudIT usually collects, but no central store of credentials!

Obviously this will take a lot more effort than using Open-AudIT as designed, but in those cases where you just cannot store sensitive credentials in a central location, Open-AudIT still has you covered.

How To Thrive In A Post-Covid Era: 10 Predictions For Enterprise Network Infrastructures

How To Thrive In A Post-Covid Era: 10 Predictions For Enterprise Network Infrastructures

An enterprise network serves as the foundation for reliably connecting users, devices and applications, providing access to data across local area networks and the cloud, as well as delivering crucial insight into analytics.

But in the wake of a year that was no doubt shaped by COVID-19 and the disruption it brought to the industry, how have enterprise networks been impacted, and what are the requirements moving forward?

What were previously technology nice-to-haves and future infrastructure intentions, are now swiftly becoming business imperatives.

In this blog, we’ll explore our top 10 predictions for network infrastructure in 2021.

 

1.   Cloud Application Delivery

 

The traditional office-based-model has no doubt permanently changed and flexible working arrangements brought forward by the pandemic will continue. A Boston Consulting study from last year found that 63% of employees want a hybrid model whereby they continue to work from home part of the time.

Organizations will further turn to the cloud for application delivery, placing an investment in remote connectivity and new security functionality.

 

2.   Businesses Turn to Big Data and Analytics

 

The requirement for businesses to be agile, change and adapt is more prevalent than ever, and decision-makers need to identify trends and ultimately stay ahead of the curve through outcomes-based strategies.

Big data is becoming an imperative tool in every organization’s arsenal, though its presence is superfluous without the appropriate means to disseminate and analyse it.

We predict this will drive the recruitment of data professionals and further, the simplification in data management through self-service means, accessible to non-data-professionals.

“It’s really about democratizing analytics. It is really about getting insight in a fraction of the time with less skill than is possible today.” – Rita Sallam, vice president and analyst at Gartner.

 

3.   The Year of Mass Adoption for Cognitive / Artificial Intelligence

 

With big data, comes big responsibility and moreover – big processing requirements, which is where AI will be heavily recruited.

2021 will be the year of mass adoption for AI, as businesses of all levels have experienced a paradigm shift into a digital-first model. Corporate networks have been tested through remote working arrangements, uncovering major reliability issues and security threats. IT leaders are looking for a set and forget solutions that automatically provide optimization and security, which is where software such as Opmantek’s NMIS, opEvents, opConfig and Open-AudIT can assist.

Opmantek software is a key system used by IT operations teams across all industries — it acts as the dashboard of a car and tells them how fast everything is going and lets them know when something is faulty. It even predicts future faults, and that’s a big part of the AI. The longer you run our software, the smarter it gets — it learns about your IT Infrastructure and starts to automatically manage it better and deliver better information to the IT operations team.” said Danny Maher, Chairman of Opmantek .

 

4.   Hybrid Clouds in High Demand

 

Agility, speed, security, scalability and compliance are all considerations for IT decision-makers.

Though, there’s never a blanket / one size fits all solution for every business use case, and so the demand for hybrid cloud environments will continue to grow. The traditional model of cloud providers is that of a one-stop-shop. However, we predict as demand grows; cloud market leaders will introduce greater interoperability and further allow users to introduce cloud tools across their existing on-campus networks. Collaboration between cloud providers may even be on the cards as users demand greater flexibility.

 

5.   Networking Virtualization

 

Network virtualization offers many benefits by automating and simplifying processes, including network configuration flexibility, improved control over-segmentation, speed, increased security and cost savings.

According to research by Spiceworks, 30% of businesses currently use network virtualization technology — and an additional 14% plan to use it within the next 2 years.

 

6.   Unified Communication And Collaboration Tools Are Here To Stay

 

End-user adoption is often one of the greatest barriers for IT professionals looking to implement new software. However, seemingly overnight, employees were catapulted into a reality where unified communications as a service (UCaaS) was no longer just an occasional collaboration tool, but rather a necessity of the employment.

We have changed our habits and the way in which we do business. Even as the workforce begin to transition back to office or hybrid office/work from home environments, there’s no doubt that UCaaS is here to stay. Providers will introduce new functionality and continue to diversify their offering to accommodate hybrid working in 2021.

 

7.   WiFi Gets an Upgrade

 

Businesses and consumers alike want things faster, easier and more efficient, and WiFi is no exception. Enter WiFi 6e.

6e not only offers new airwaves for routers to use, but it doesn’t require overlapping signals.

One of the major benefits of 6e is a reduction in network congestion, specifically in areas where users are closely spaced.  As the pandemic continues to unfold, rush hour and crowded spaces are less of an issue, so it may be a waiting game as to when in 2021 we realise 6e’s true potential.

 

8.   IoT (Internet of Things) – More than just Alexa

 

As digital transformation is on the rise, so is IoT and its use cases. A SecurityToday article forecasted that by 2021 there would be 35 billion IoT devices installed worldwide.

IoT is already revolutionizing the way key industries do business, however, healthcare will double down in 2021. Reduced access to face-to-face medical contact has accelerated the need for remote care, and according to Allied Market research – the global internet of things in the healthcare market is expected to reach $332.672 billion by 2027.

 

9.   A Focus on Cybersecurity

 

In light of recent high profile cybersecurity attacks which infiltrated private companies, state and federal organizations by inserting malicious code into trusted software; cybersecurity and secure network monitoring will be paramount.

If you have data or services of value, you need to protect it properly. Keith Sinclair – CTO & Co-founder of Opmantek says, “It is critical to business continuity and data security that you have security controls in your environment to mitigate risk.”

 

10.    Infrastructure Management Software Leveraged

 

Application demands are continuing to grow and networks must respond. Network professionals must find means of simplifying these increasingly complex systems and environments. Here’s where automated network management software will be leveraged.

Opmantek Software serves to augment a network engineering or system administration role. As well as emulating actions that network engineers take within a network management system, it can also perform advanced maintenance tasks, assist in the interpretation of network data and communicate effectively with other digital systems in order to categorise, resolve and escalate potential network issues.

 

 

For more information about Opmantek and the services we provide, get in touch. Our network engineers are available to chat through specific issues you may be facing within your own network environment.

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