Extreme Networks today announced a new analytics tool, Purview, which takes a unique approach to providing analytics and thus insight with respect to what's really happening on networks today. Yes, it is all about the apps, but what apps are consuming the most resources? What load does each place on the network? What are end users really doing with the network, and is that network really working for them and the organization overall? Purview is designed to provide real-time information on all of this, and a lot more, and works by gathering the requisite data directly from the hardware. This is a very interesting approach, and is clearly superior to trying to measure what's happening with third-party tools running on servers or appliances and snooping on flows. I'd even go so far as to say that this approach is the future of network analytics - while I'm sure more functionality will be added over time, the Purview strategy is about as optimal as it gets.
I've been saying for some time that unified wired/wireless networking and innovation in the management plane are two key differentiators of increasing importance to the future of networking. Management, of course, is really about productivity, and not just that of the end-users served by the network, but also IT staff - planning, operations, security, and even finance. The report-generation function of the management console is now being augmented by large-scale analytics taking a cue from the innovations we've seen in the Big Data space over the past few years. Big Data is all about performing analysis when the ultimate goal (beyond, of course, searching for insight) is unclear - it's the set of techniques and technologies that you use when you don't know what you're looking for. Purview thus fits very nicely into what will become the analysis paradigm for all of IT - gather a lot of data (again, in this case directly from the hardware), slice it and dice it on demand, and improve the productivity of those who are using, planning, operating, optimizing, upgrading, and paying for the network. This is very cool. And it also fits nicely with that other big trend today, SDN. Imagine an efficient, even automated, connection between analysis and network (re)configuration - the potential here absolutely boggles the mind.
In fact, we are approaching the point where the network will be viewed as more than just plumbing, or, my favorite analogy, the circulatory system of the organization. Instead, we will come to think of the network as a business asset. We will see IT organizations more integrated than ever before with overall enterprise objectives and goals. And we might even see a new acronym: RON - return on network.