NetBrain’s Network Data Model and the Foundation for Automation
IT’s Big Data When IT problems strike, the key to prompt resolution is hiding in the data – data produced when the fault occurs, historical data, and live data obtained…
July 27, 2020
We recently spoke with Steve Campbell, the man who owns NetBrain’s partner strategy, to find out why there’s never been a better opportunity to work with NetBrain than now, what presents an ideal opportunity for our partners, and what are his favourite partner success stories to date.
Tell us about the NetBrain Partner Programme
The intent of our Partner Programme is to provide a framework in which partners can sell the NetBrain solution and services around the solution. NetBrain is a very service-rich product which allows our partners to provide enablement to their customers. It also provides standard pricing discounts for them so that they can proactively sell the NetBrain solution.
Why has there never been a better opportunity to work with NetBrain?
Infrastructures are getting dramatically more difficult to manage with the software defined capabilities of WAN and data centre infrastructure. There’s just more complexity than ever before. NetBrain delivers an end-to-end picture of multi-vendor, multi-infrastructure networks. It allows you to have a single view of the network.
In addition, automation is becoming so important for our customers, especially as everyone’s working remotely. The ability to automate and to drive shift-knowledge-left allows companies to do more with people that are spread all over the place and allows them to collaborate more effectively.
What projects are keeping our partners busy right now?
The pandemic has caught most companies by surprise in that they all had disaster recovery plans and programmes but very few of those programmes considered a global pandemic. The ability to understand what you have in your network, know how it’s being used, and to be able to make changes when everybody’s remote is difficult.
So, we’re seeing a lot of transformation projects, and the need to keep the lights on, to keep the infrastructure working, while everybody’s working remotely and that’s been a huge challenge.
What should Partners look for when trying to identify a good NetBrain opportunity?
Identifying a good NetBrain opportunity is quite easy. The reason I say that is that NetBrain is applicable not just for all the new technologies mentioned, it also provides significant value for legacy infrastructure.
One of the things that’s happening right now is that it’s harder to find the talent to help manage infrastructure, and your most talented people are always in high demand and very rarely can they work on programmes and projects to move the network forward.
So, some of the things to look for as a partner is companies that are having an issue just keeping up with their standard trouble tickets. These companies are running into issues or they’re having a hard time solving P1 issues.
Having the end-to-end network visibility that NetBrain provides makes it dramatically easier to see where problems are. The platform also allows you to shift the knowledge left, so once your experts have solved a problem, they can turn it into an automatable runbook. What this means is the level one support team can now take that knowledge of the level three engineer and automatically run the solution as an interactive process the next time the same problem happens so they can start correcting these issues themselves. That’s a simple operations use case.
Every company also has some sort of compliance initiatives that drive the need for end-to-end visibility. What we’re seeing more of now is a continual auditing process for a lot of companies. The ability to push a button and see the infrastructure as it is today, how it was yesterday, and hopefully how it’s going to be tomorrow. And the ability to prove it was in a certain state during a certain period of time is extremely important for compliance.
Finally, with any kind of transformation project, companies are talking about either adopting some software-defined networking technologies or moving to the cloud. This is where the automated mapping and the visibility that we provide across hybrid infrastructures and hybrid vendor landscapes really help supports these critical projects.
What network environments or technologies are you seeing in our customers’ networks?
The reason that we have such service-rich value in NetBrain, is because of the ecosystem of tools that companies use to support their networks. It’s not just the infrastructure components themselves, like VMware, NSX, and Cisco ACI, or SD-WAN. It’s also the tools infrastructure. From ITSM solutions like ServiceNow or BMC Remedy, to the more log related tools such as Splunk, to the security systems. NetBrain is simply an extension of all of these.
One of the capabilities that NetBrain offers is the ability to take all this knowledge from these individual tools and pull it into this single pane of glass, becoming a single source of truth. NetBrain can overlay the information from these different monitoring tools onto a dynamic map.
As an example, if you want to see the bandwidth during the time of an outage compared to now or a baseline period, you can bring the data from these other tools into NetBrain and create a contextual map with all the data.
The other thing to mention is triggered automation. When a ticket gets created in ServiceNow, the ability to automate a process and then take the detailed information out of NetBrain and automatically stick it into that ticket within ServiceNow or your ITSM tool is so valuable. It adds more value to the trouble ticket and the agent picking up that ticket has an interactive map and pre-run diagnosis information that the agent can then manipulate as they go through and troubleshoot that ticket.
Which partners are we working with and how?
The partners that are most interested in NetBrain are the partners that have rich service offerings. The partners that recognise the value of NetBrain are ones that understand how we can impact their ability to deliver services more efficiently, more effectively, and reduce their costs.
Let’s just take a simple example of a customer moving to a Cisco ACI or software defined networking infrastructure in a data centre. We can smooth the transition of moving applications from weeks down to hours, and that greatly improves productivity.
Where are partners realising value?
Partners make their money through the value that we add to their services and how we can improve their efficiencies.
It’s partners that are working to benefit customers on their behalf. In other words, if they’re running the operations of the network infrastructure for a customer, then they’re going to get the same value as a customer would. The whole concept of identifying where a problem is and reducing the meantime to identify, or meantime to resolve an issue. All these benefits apply to partners and customers alike. Matter of fact, I would say that that partners do a better job of realising that value because they are very intent on driving optimised processes. And that’s where NetBrain provides the most value – in optimising processes and improving them over time through automation.
Another area where they can drive impact (and make their money) is by using NetBrain to expedite and bring more confidence in change. In transformation programmes and projects there’s this concept that’s been in the industry forever, which is to de-risk any kind of change, and that’s where we provide tremendous value through our change management capabilities that allow for scheduled change. But the neat thing is we allow you to compare and contrast before and after so you can determine whether a change was successful, or if it failed and very quickly back out of the change.
Tell us about a recent success story for both the partner and the customer.
We had one project where our partner’s customer was moving to Cisco ACI. Before NetBrain, they used Visio and NetFlow tools to build network maps. What they found was that it would take a week to map each application and by the time it was done, it was inaccurate. Our partner took that one week of NetFlow experimentation in Visio, and with NetBrain the were able to accomplish this in an hour. And, they can show actual diagrams of how everything was configured down to the nth degree of detail, including firewalls and load balancers, that they could then translate over to the ACI environment.
Let me give you another example that to me is more interesting, because I’ve never seen this in my entire history working with customers and partners. I’ve mentioned this concept of single source of truth and shifting knowledge left. What that means is taking the knowledge out of these really smart level three engineers and making it accessible to the level one engineers by codifying the knowledge. They can then take that knowledge and do more with it.
So, one of the quotes that we received from a level one engineer within a partner organisation is that they are so glad that they have NetBrain, because it allows them to actually solve customer’s problems. Prior to implementing NetBrain, they had pre-programmed steps that they would walk through, and then they would escalate it. They very rarely had the capability to solve a customer problem. With automation and the ability to shift knowledge left, they found that they were able to do much more and solve customer problems before they let them off the phone.
You know, that experience of a level one support member was such an eye opener for me. I know that sounds a little bit silly, but I think it’s extremely unique. If they’re more productive, what that means is the customer is getting better service from the IT team or from the partner in this case, and that’s really is important because that’s Net Promoter Score, that’s customer success.