[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.”

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Automation, is it just a buzzword?

Automation, is it just a buzzword?

When you hear Opmantek refer to ‘Automation’, it’s not just a buzzword – it’s kind of a big deal! But..what exactly is it, and why should you care? Let’s get to the nuts and bolts of it.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) focuses on automating human processes and functional tasks.
Operational Process Automation (OPA) is the next evolution of RPA, which delivers specifically to IT and network operations teams and carries out advanced analysis and troubleshooting tasks.
So, whilst RPA focuses on only automating actions, OPA also integrates thinking and decision making.
When Opmantek talks about Automation, it’s OPA we’re referring to – It Detects, Diagnoses and Acts.

But “How does that help me?” I hear you ask…

The purpose of OPA is to get the right systems and workflows in place to:

  • Remove repetitive tasks from your workload
  • Predict faults before they arise
  • Remediate issues on your behalf
  • Assist you with maintenance tasks, and
  • Interpret complex data for you

In short, OPA serves to augment a network engineering or system administration role. That’s right, it’s the extra set of hands you didn’t know you had and allows you to give your tasks to machines.

Meet the new recruit

The good news is your newest team member doesn’t eat, sleep, or take time off! They complete tasks accurately and the same way each time, and like a human – learn and become more efficient as time goes on. The great news is they come experienced and will hit the ground running, but OPA can also be trained to take on more complex tasks that are specific to your network.

OPA’s Resumé

Let’s look at some of OPA’s experience working in real organizations.

Telecommunications Carrier – USA

In a Network Operations Center (NOC) environment: the team gets an alert, does some diagnosis and if they deem the problem can’t be fixed remotely, a field service team member is sent out to resolve the fault.
During recent snowstorms, field service calls were extremely high and they were finding over 50% to be false reports. That’s right, real-world field services team members were being sent into the snow to fix faults that didn’t exist.

OPA came onboard to handle alerts and find the source of problems. Event storms were brought to zero, deduplication was no longer a problem and only real events were pushed to the human team. Consequently, field service calls were reduced and the network was brought back to normal in half the time.

Energy Company – USA

New federal and state mandates required the company to provide in-depth and detailed accounting audits of devices and software licenses.

Their existing team didn’t have extensive IT experience, they were working in the confines of a highly restricted secure network, and they had a very limited budget to find a solution.
With OPA on the team, they can now generate detailed ad-hoc reports for internal management or audit demands. Federal and State audit requirements are now met and they’ve even saved 30% on their annual budget.

Wireless Internet Service Provider – USA

A WISP with infrastructure based in desert areas was experiencing equipment failure due to temperature shifts. They were constantly inundated with alerts and the resolution process involved physically attending the site to restart the affected equipment.

Failing to meet their service level agreements, they were losing customers.
They’ve now revised their operational playbook to incorporate OPA. Issues are being automatically remediated as they occur, and an escalation process has been built to look out for symptoms before they’re even triggered into events. They now proactively resolve faults before they turn into issues, with customers unaware there was ever even a problem.

Curious to see whether OPA could be the right fit for your organization? Speak to a network engineer about your requirements and learn more about automation. We’re a technically led team, so prepare for a conversation about solutions, not sales;

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How SMEs can manage their Network Faults using Event Actions

How SMEs can manage their Network Faults using Event Actions

Fault management is the process of detecting, analysing and responding to faults in a system. It is an essential part of any IT infrastructure because it helps maintain availability and quality of service for applications.   Event actions, inside opEvents, provides your organisation with fault management visibility at the time of the event, while proactively remediating events, before they become major faults. Its ability to provide early warning detection of potential problems is more than an asset to businesses. By identifying potential hazards before they happen, signifying steps that need to be addressed or escalated before they become significant is highly desirable. You’ll be able to always see happening on your network, including; when events occur on a network, what events occur before faults, what steps were taken to remedy the faults. The combination of these factors will allow you to automatically close events and stop them from escalating to future faults. This performance management tool will help you save time, money, resources and reputation when dealing with unexpected situations that may arise and allow you to better plan for IT emergencies.  

Why Fault Tool Management is so important

The Fault Configuration Accounting Performance Security (FCAPS) framework for managing information security was developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to provide a structured approach to Network Management. It provides an overview of the capabilities required to manage networks effectively, and the F in FCAPS stands for Fault Management, including monitoring, detection and diagnosis. This framework aims to improve the quality of service that users receive from their networks while also reducing costs associated with faults, outages, and maintenance.  

How is your network performing?

Opmantek’s opEvents platform provides an automated network management solution for IT events and faults, making it easy for SMEs to monitor their networks with minimal effort. With our software, you can identify where problems are happening in real-time; without affecting your business operations and customer experience. We offer an integrated suite of products that can be tailored to meet any business’ needs, from small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) up to large corporations. In addition, our solutions are designed to provide maximum visibility into your networks so you can identify and resolve problems before they cause downtime or financial loss. Network management system’s like NMIS (Network Management Information System) will send fault and performance events. Increasing the breadth and depth of event management, Opmantek senior engineer Mark Henry explains this in our recent webinar ‘opEvents: All about Event Actions’. “NMIS has a foundation escalation system that handles events singularly, however by employing opEvents you have the ability of automated event correlation”. You can install opEvents easily as a standalone product at our downloads page, or it is available as part of our Opmantek virtual appliance package.  

Why log analysis tools are essential for all businesses

Pro-consumer cyber security and privacy comparison website Comparitech has ranked opEvents in its list of 12 Best Log Analysis Tools, stating that it ranks highly because: “This centralised log and event manager reduces the impact of network faults and failures using proactive event management.” In the article, Comparitech network administration expert Tim Keary wrote that: “Poor performance can emerge unexpectedly at any time. Network monitoring platforms like log analysis tools allow you to spot performance issues before they arise.” Keary outlined that strong log analysers like opEvents provided users with data they wouldn’t otherwise have that included:
  • The ability to quantify the number of log messages that arrive in a given period by using statistics to understand and improve performance-related issues and optimise security measures.
  • Filtering and sorting tools that are capable of identifying and separating sources and events.
  • Correlation systems enable log messages generated in different formats to be analysed together to make sense of fragmented data.
  • A system of highlighting to make patterns in data more accessible to identify visually.
  • The ability to interpret a wide range of raw data and then present it to you through charts that make sense.
  Here at Opmantek, we have seen many IT departments transformed by implementing our suite of tools to automate network Fault Management. To start making decisions through meaningful and actionable data to automatically troubleshoot your events book a demo today.

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4 Best Practices For Automating Your Network Management

4 Best Practices For Automating Your Network Management

This excerpt comes from a blog originally posted on MSP Insights

Murphy’s Law states: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Equipment always breaks when you’re on vacation, often when the on-call engineer is as far away as possible, and with little useful information from the network management software (NMS).

 

It’s critical for a network to be available 100% of the time and always performing at 100%. Network management is a core component of IT infrastructure that is put in place to minimize disruptions, ensure high performance, and help businesses avoid security issues. Network architectures and networking products handle the brunt of the work, but management tools and technologies are essential for picking up the slack and allowing the shift from reactive to proactive strategies.

 

Network automation can automate repetitive tasks to improve efficiency and ensure consistency in network teams. Ultimately, automation will improve the meantime time to resolve (MTTR) and drive down the total cost of ownership (TCO). Network automation enables staff to gain process and configuration agility while maintaining compliance standards. It will help simplify your network and lower maintenance costs.

 

Save Time And Money With Automation

According to Gartner, “The undisputed number one cause of network outages is human error.” As humans, we all make mistakes, which is why businesses must have comprehensive automation in place. Automation can reduce the likelihood of issues being missed by ensuring consistency and reducing the need for tedious manual configuration. It also can save time, money and improve productivity. The following are four steps organizations can take to build a reliable and agile network through automation.

 

1. Implement Operation Process Automation (OPA)

OPA is about getting the right systems in place to automate repetitive operational tasks to improve efficiency and ensure consistency in operations teams. OPA delivers process automation specifically to IT and network operations teams. As well as emulating actions that network engineers take within a network management system, OPA also can perform advanced maintenance tasks, assist in the interpretation of network data, and communicate effectively with other digital systems to categorize, resolve, and escalate potential network issues. Ultimately, OPA is about improving the MTTR and decreasing the cost of operations.

 

2. Improve Configuration Management

When considering automation solutions to scale your business, a critical variable to consider is time saved through automation compared to the amount of time tasks take if performed manually. A significant amount of administration time is consumed managing configurations and firmware updates, which could be better spent on proactive tasks. Organizations looking to become more efficient should consider an automated network management tool that integrates configuration management to reduce the risk of human errors and enable easier implementation of network-wide changes. This concept is not new, and it is the fundamental basis of making impactful decisions on how your organization can scale.

 

3. Single View Multi-Vendor Support

Most networks are composed of elements from multiple manufacturers. This can create challenges when overseeing the elements of each management system. A better, more efficient approach is to find and deploy management tools that offer true multi-vendor support. This will reduce the number of tools needed for day-to-day tasks and eliminate the need for learning and maintaining multiple management tools, which will improve operational responsiveness and efficiency.

 

4. Policy-Based Management Systems

Many common network administration activities should be handled by the network management system automatically. These systems should not require repeated configuration but be configured through a policy that captures the business rules and ensures that devices are handled consistently. Automated device discovery and classification is another important aspect, automatically determining what the device is, what to monitor, and what type of alerts and events will be generated, all without human intervention.

 

Combining People And Process Automation

According to Forrester, 56% of global infrastructure technology decision-makers have implemented/are implementing or are expanding/upgrading their implementation of automation software. It’s important to note that automation does not mean the replacement of individuals. Instead, it can benefit IT workers, by transferring routine and tedious elements of managing networks to machine learning models that can reduce the noise from the vast number of alerts and notifications. For organizations that are looking to scale, a combination of people and process automation will yield the best results book a demo from our experts to learn more.

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How To Leave Work At 5 PM: Visibility, Event Management & Automation

How To Leave Work At 5 PM: Visibility, Event Management & Automation

This excerpt comes from a blog originally posted on Packetpushers.net

As organizations manage increasingly interdependent network infrastructure in an increasingly chaotic world, how can you, as a Network Operations professional, maintain control of your network without losing control of your time?

The answers are: network visibility, flexible event management, and powerful automation. All of this is possible within Opmantek’s network management platform. The software streamlines workflows and lets network engineers and operators accomplish more work with fewer distractions, allowing them to go home on time.

The Importance Of Visibility

We often hear from network engineers that they don’t know what devices are on the network or where they’re located. This lack of visibility introduces security risks and increases Mean Time To Recovery (MTTR). The ability to see as much of the network as possible on a single dashboard allows for fast response times when you and your team need them most.

The robust network visualization tools built into Opmantek’s opCharts and opEvents give you the ability to see a network and react in real-time to precisely what’s happening with confidence. That’s essential for daily operations and in emergencies. For example, did you know that storm-related outages cost the U.S. economy up to $55 billion every year? When a major storm like Hurricane Sandy blasts through your infrastructure overnight, you’ll be able to identify the points of failure and…READ ON.

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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