The five challenges with monitoring IT infrastructures

By Sebastian Krueger, Vice President for Asia Pacific at Paessler AG
The five challenges with monitoring complex IT infrastructures By Sebastian Krueger, Vice President for Asia Pacific at Paessler AG

Organisations that want to monitor a large IT or network infrastructure are faced with several challenges. Complexities that come with managing a vast digital ecosystem can seem daunting, but they don’t have to be. In fact, once system administrators have a handle on the data they need, then they can take the driver’s seat and proactively use the data to make informed decisions quickly.

Here are the five main challenges with monitoring large IT infrastructures and more importantly, their solution. With the right tools, monitoring even a giant system environment can be relatively simple. The main tenets of monitoring remain the same, regardless of the size of the IT environment. But larger networks come with some additional challenges as their complexity grows.

Multiple monitoring tools

Large environments tend to have devices from many different vendors. They also have multiple systems. Many of these devices and systems have their own monitoring tools, so it is not uncommon that a large enterprise has around 10-15 monitoring tools for different purposes like monitoring storage, network performance, applications, databases, devices and so on.

Distributed networks

In larger enterprises, devices and infrastructure are often spread over multiple geographic locations. Depending on how these networks are managed, they might be isolated, semi-independent networks or they might be linked together in a large connected network. Whatever the architecture, the challenge is: do you monitor each “sub” network separately, and how can they produce an overview of the health of the entire infrastructure?

Monitoring beyond IT

Specialised IT environments have their own requirements: healthcare, automotive companies, production floors and more each has its own protocols, device types, systems and challenges. Whereas in the past these parts might have been completely separate from the traditional IT infrastructure, think Operational Technology (OT) in the industrial sector or medical devices in the healthcare sector; recent digitalisation has meant that there is more overlap between these areas. This means that more and more devices that do not fall under the definition of “traditional IT” must also be monitored.

Teams and specialists

Apart from a central management overview, individual views for certain areas are needed. For example, there might be a separate team taking care of the databases and another one looking after the network traffic. This requires roles and rights management functionality, individual dashboards and maps and alert management to make sure that the right person receives an alert in time and has access to exactly the information they need to solve the problem.

Getting an overview

With a variety of devices, protocols, monitoring tools and infrastructure distributed over various locations, it’s very difficult to get an overview of your entire IT. When you add specialised IT like healthcare IT or industrial IT, you probably have many dashboards and reports in many different places. Also, monitoring many devices, applications and systems generates a huge amount of data. It’s easy to get lost in this information, and so a way of consolidating this data into an overview is required.

Advanced reporting capabilities

Enterprise organisations, especially those in a high-growth market, need advanced reporting capabilities to provide a broader and deeper view into infrastructure performance. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics that form the basis for Service Level Agreements (SLAs) need to be tracked on a regular basis to expose trends and allow analysis that provides a true understanding of their network's health, performance and growth over time.

Monitoring the infrastructure that supports enterprises’ enhanced employee and customer experiences involves layers of interconnected technologies that become more complex every year, and this really is key to any large organisation’s success.

Achieving increased efficiency and scalability

If organisations can scale their monitoring tools at the same pace as scaling their infrastructure this is vital. The combination of a modern infrastructure monitoring solution in addition to other observability tools is key to enabling greater efficiency.

Proactively detecting anomalies and automating connections between incidents and events is vital to reducing noise, and helps to pinpoint the most pressing issues. Metadata and enrichment allow incidents to be diagnosed much faster and the root cause identified fast. There could be a potential impact on customer experience if this is not done right. 

Creating visibility across the entire tech stack is about empowering IT teams to work smarter, not harder, while ensuring that business objectives are met. While these objectives can be different for each organisation, the increasing complexity of the stack means it is essential l to understand the relationships and connections between different entities. Implementing a single, customisable, high-level view makes the difference between traditional monitoring and achieving true observability of large IT infrastructures.

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