Saturday, 5 July 2008

FCAPS & ITIL - New frameworks for effective network management

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In today's diverse networking infrastructure, the network has to handle more instances of unified communications, video, and virtualization. The role of the network manager encompasses not only monitoring (for performance & security), but also anticipating future network problems and transcending technology silos to ensure everything runs well together, whether it's the network, the server, or the application. While not a complete answer, two frameworks exist that can prove to be important in network management: FCAPS and ITIL.

FCAPS (fault-management, configuration, accounting, performance, and security) is an acronym for a categorical model of the working objectives of network management. It contains five levels which are discussed below:

F (Fault management): At the F level, network problems are found & corrected. Potential future problems are identified, and steps are taken to prevent them from occurring or recurring. In this way, the network is kept operational, and downtime is minimized.
C (Configuration): At the C level, network operation is monitored and controlled. Hardware and programming changes, including the addition of new equipment and programs, modification of existing systems, and removal of obsolete systems and programs, are coordinated. An inventory of equipment and programs is kept and updated regularly.
A (Accounting): The A level, sometimes also known as allocation level, is devoted to distributing resources optimally and fairly among network subscribers. This makes the most effective use of the systems available, minimizing the cost of operation. This level is also responsible for ensuring that users are billed appropriately.
P (Performance): The P level is involved with managing the overall performance of the network. throughput is maximized, bottlenecks are avoided, and potential problems are identified.
S (Security): At the S level, the network is protected against hackers, unauthorized users, and physical or electronic sabotage. Confidentiality of user information is maintained where necessary or warranted. The security systems also allow network administrators to control what each individual authorized user can (and cannot) do with the system.

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library, or ITIL, was designed to provide a better framework to deliver high-quality & consistent application delivery over a network infrastructure. Many organizations are adopting the ITIL framework within their environments to provide quality assurances toward providing better network management practices. These practices include a framework for application, service, and security management.

Service support: This is typically a network operations center (NOC) in most organizations. The service support discipline is focused on ensuring that the end users have access to the applications that they require. This area focuses on aspects of troubleshooting, help desk, and supporting new applications over the network. Underlying disciplines for service support include problem management, configuration management, and change management.
Service delivery: For many organizations, the key management functions of a service are delivered in this area. Service delivery consists of ensuring that as applications are flowing across the network, they are being delivered consistently. This discipline includes capacity management and application modeling. Service level objectives and agreements are the key metrics used to distinguish how well an application is being delivered to end users.
Security management: It includes proper configuration management of rights and permissions of users to ensure that unauthorized access is not granted to end users. It also focuses on ensuring that unauthorized or unintended access of sensitive application data is not obtained.
Infrastructure management: This faculty is responsible for the installation and physical configuration of all network devices in the organization. When changes are approved by the change teams, infrastructure teams are the army that enforces these changes and does all of the heavy lifting based on the designs by other architects and engineers.
Application management: It is designed with the sole purpose of ensuring that an application has the right configuration and design to be implemented in the environment. This discipline can cover many various aspects of network management, from number of application dependencies to delay timers for satellite links. Application management is designed to ensure that the application, end-to-end, is fully enabled to provide the service and delivery to the end users.
Software asset management: It is often considered a vital aspect of managing an organization. Software licenses and products are expensive commodities. Software asset management is designed to be partially configuration management as it provides essential information about the software installed on each device, its revision or platform level, and how many instances are required. Accounting for proper licensing and software maintenance is a big business with many larger IT organizations.

It's also important to note that even in smaller IT operations, these key functions are essential to proper IT management initiatives. Many of these functions can be collapsed together like help desk and service delivery to provide the same services as larger organizations.

Source: Article by Lindi Horton

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