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Network change and configuration management morphs for the cloud

Solution providers offering network change and configuration management services must now offer NCCM for the cloud, which will mean mapping components and implementing planned change in a very dynamic environment.

As traditional LAN and WAN technologies have advanced, solution providers who specialize in Network Change and Configuration Management (NCCM) services must morph their skills to support highly dynamic cloud environments.

NCCM services has grown into a more complex discipline that involves keep end-user services running on cloud networks even when carriers and other major providers can't, according to Bill Hurley, CTO of Westcon Group, a $3 billion global distributor whose customers are split among resellers and major carriers.

"NCCM is a huge opportunity for many of our clients because of the quality assurance aspects of the cloud and virtual computing," Hurley says. "Some of the largest global vendors stumble a little in providing the simplest analytics and services. Resellers and integrators that grew up on the networking side -- NOC operators, LAN and WAN integrators -- have a tremendous opportunity to add value to that."

Managed-service and collocation provider Datapipe, for example, is the first service provider to offer stability and network optimization services on top of Amazon's EC2 cloud platform.

"We offer to manage the resources and infrastructure for Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers so they don't have to do it themselves and so they don't have to get up at three in the morning when the phone rings," says Ed Laczinsky VP of cloud strategy at Datapipe. "Customers want to jump on so they're not behind the curve, but they don't necessarily want to manage it themselves."

So Datapipe handles all of the variables for customers, including monitoring servers, memory, bandwidth, storage, IP mappings, volumes of attached storage and more, Laczinsky says.

"[Amazon Web Services) is basically a utility, like a power provider, so an enterprise hires them because it's not appropriate to have to go string up the power lines themselves," he says. "We're seeing a lot of customers coming to us to make sure they have an SLA in place and the response times they need."

This model is a big change from traditional NCCM techniques that track network devices and fix them using single-vendor tools for specialized functions.

"NCCM has primarily been a labor-intensive, manual process involving remote access to individual devices and typing commands into vendor-specific command line interfaces that are fraught with the possibility for human error," according to a Marketscope report on NCCM Gartner published in March

Not anymore. Networks have evolved from a string of connected but independently managed boxes into a highly abstracted platform for computing and communications that is far more complex than traditional networks, says Dennis Drogseth, VP of research at Enterprise Management Associates.

For its part, cloud computing is a way to improve overall access and efficient use of resources connected to the network, writes Drogseth. NCCM is a way to make sure those resources are always available and that the network is serving the needs for which it was built.

"SAAS is a much bigger chunk of the pie within the U.S. market, so it's behind Europe and Asia in implementing infrastructure services," Westcon's Hurley says. "What we're seeing globally is a lot of storage, compute-as-a-service and other infrastructure are absolutely gaining ground and the market is becoming much more about the combination of the solution and service as part of an overall service package."


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