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What is Network Visualization?

by Valerie Dimartino Jun 6, 2023

Network visualization or visibility is an understanding of the infrastructure and traffic flows in an organization’s hybrid network. The term also encompasses your awareness of everything in and traversing your hybrid network and the use of visibility tools that enable this understanding. Network visualization tools are used to enhance alertness and responsiveness for improved monitoring and control over network and application traffic, network performance, network resourcing, and data.
What's Network Visualization

Management of network resources is critical for effective and scalable network management and planning for growth, decision-making, supporting new and existing services, and network health.

Additionally, network visualization software allows you to exercise greater control for decision-making so you can better meet the needs of the business without disruption. It affords you the ability to proactively react to any issues that arise and to prepare network documentation much more quickly and accurately for regulatory compliance audits.

Network visibility helps you plan for future growth, be less reactive in your operations, and have greater success with digital transformation projects including cloud migration by helping you scale your network to deliver IT services at levels the business requires.


A Single Pane of Glass for Network Visualizations

Anyone who has spent time working with enterprise networks knows all too well the phrase “Single Pane of Glass”; it’s an entrenched way of describing what is supposed to be end-to-end visibility of an IT environment yet it has rarely been seen in practice.

What I’ve observed is that instead of a truly integrated “single pane”, users often cobble together multiple tools and create their own discrete management workstation which has access to a litany of stand-alone tools. A far cry from the initial promise of a ‘single-pane’, this compilation of tools does nothing to solve the network management operational challenge:

  • Discrete tools do not allow operators to actually see the entire network end-to-end, from edge to cloud 
  • The struggle of tedious integrations to achieve anything resembling coordinated network visualization 
  • The hurt of only seeing network devices and not having access to the data associated with them 
  • The sting of not being able to easily share a unified network view with your extended operational team

Creating a “single Pane of Glass” for end-to-end network visualization has often been an empty promise, one that creates a lot of pain when examining the relationship between two opposite ends of the network. Different segments of the network are coming out of isolation. For example, NetOps needs equal visibility to the LAN as it does to what is going on in the data center. A problem in any part of the network can degrade end-user experience and IT service delivery performance; a siloed point-of-view on what’s happening in the network will not help resolve hybrid problems faster.

Additionally, “end-to-end” solutions often only refer to the “ends” within a vendor’s narrow ecosystem. It may be end-to-end as long as each end (and everything in between) is from Vendor X, then yes it’s end-to-end, but add in one switch from Vendor Y, and then all of a sudden, there is a gap in the network visualization. Or alternatively, a solution may be considered end-to-end as long as you don’t need visibility into the data center edge, the wide area, or the Public Cloud. This simply doesn’t cut it for today’s digital infrastructures, where the most common applications span multiple data centers, co-location sites, and public clouds.

I also see another gap when it comes to modern network data visualization – it often only provides first-level visibility into the hardware and not into the myriad of data tools surrounding IT and networking teams. These tools (think ITSM and NPM, among others) provide the contextual information needed to take the right actions with the network visualized. Not having access to their data and insights on the same pane as your infrastructure means you don’t have true single-pane-of-glass visibility.

Data about what’s inside the infrastructure is not enough; you need to see what’s happening around it. Having to swivel chairs and piece together necessary data points to solve a problem is a struggle best avoided. Integrating these supporting applications should be API-driven, simple, and seamless. And what about the historical view? Being able to compare today’s network pathways to last week’s same topology can usually identify issues that have arisen through poorly executed change management policies or other errant operational processes.

Finally, do you really have unified network visualization if you’re the only one in your organization who can see it? Today’s networks are too complex and mission-critical to be the responsibility of just one person or just one team. Effective “Single Pane” network visualization should be available to everyone touching IT service delivery, including network operations- an extended group that often includes DevOps, CloudOps, and SecOps, among others. Subject Matter Experts should be able to collaborate in a single view, in real-time, from across the room or across the world. It is imperative to remove the delays associated with hand-offs and the tedium of “playing telephone tag” when business productivity is impacted.


Network Visualization with NetBrain

All of the above sounds simple enough, right? The truth of the matter is that while “Single-Pane-of-Glass” visibility has been promised by many suppliers for quite some time, it has been less common for users to feel like they really have this unified visibility. Disconnects between different parts of the network and the ecosystem of tools surrounding them have almost become expected. Thus, many are rightfully skeptical of the promise of unified visibility. But for customers of NetBrain, they have had this for years and use it every day!

NetBrain provides unified, single-pane-of-glass visibility across the entirety of your hybrid network infrastructure. By automatically discovering every node and device and leveraging ecosystem data to build a complete Digital Twin, NetBrain’s pane eliminates NetOps pain. Want to see it now, give us a minute to change your world.