The way we manage and monitor networks is morphing.\u00a0\nPassive, reactive tools are being replaced by more proactive network analytics systems that give the entire network team a single source of truth about network behavior and a much deeper understanding of where infrastructure issues are hiding and what to do about them.\nBefore IT was forever changed by the arrival of mobile devices, virtualization and cloud apps, fixing network problems was relatively simple because users plugged into the network from one location to access local applications and resources.\nBut with the proliferation of diverse wireless clients \u2013 a range of hardware using different versions of different operating systems (the permutations can quickly scale into the thousands) \u2013 and the use of applications and services that are often not under IT\u2019s control, getting to the heart of individual user and systemic client network problems has become the new nightmare.\nThis is particularly acute in the access network. Just think about a single user connecting to the network. The first leg in the journey is contending for Wi-Fi access, where various problems can scuttle or degrade the effort. Next the user must authenticate to the network, obtain an IP address and resolve DHCP requests, all of which can be problematic. And finally, they access applications locally or traverse a wide area link to the cloud, introducing still more opportunities for things to go south.\nA hiccup with any individual step can result in service disruption and poor performance, but the user just chalks it up as a problem with \u201cthe network\u201d (and probably as \u201ca problem with IT\u201d).\nBut for IT, was it a device OS problem? A Wi-Fi issue? DHCP? ARP? DNS? An application failure? A WAN problem? And can you find the answer without having to scour through volumes of log data, packet captures and pretty screens and graphs generated by various vendor management systems?\nBecause that\u2019s the reality in any IT shop today: boatloads of discrete vendor tools to troubleshoot individual products in specific parts of the network.\u00a0\nThat model is no longer tenable due to the amount of data that must be gathered and correlated and analyzed to optimize performance. Blimey, everyone on the team needs to be a data scientist.\nBig data analytics, combined with cloud computing and machine learning, is driving the emergence of a new class of infrastructure network analytics that examines the data traversing the network to derive a holistic view of the health of the network and attached devices and the services and applications, all from the perspective of the user.\u00a0\nThis will fundamentally redefine how IT can become more proactive.\nNot exclusive to any single vendor, the new class of solutions focused on this approach has been coined \u201cuser performance management\u201d (UPM). Although still in their infancy, UPM platforms promise to fundamentally alter the traditional reactive workflows of IT.\u00a0\nThink Netflix for networks\nIt\u2019s important to understand the difference between a monitoring solution and an analytics solution. Consider how Netflix works. When you watch a movie or TV show, Netflix is learning what might interest you based on historical viewing data it keeps. It then suggests shows that you might like to watch without you even asking. That is analytics.\nNow try applying this analytics concept to enterprise access networks.\nThe network analytics platforms collect wired packets, device data, wireless metrics, applications and WAN data, and crunch all this data concurrently to understand important patterns and trends impacting user network performance from virtually any vantage point.\nThese new analytics-based solutions constantly stare at all parts of the network, watching and learning the behavior of client transactions up and down the stack as they happen, storing this data historically to identify larger patterns and trends that emerge.\nThese systems are uniquely positioned to help IT be more proactive, by learning how different parts of the network are working (or aren\u2019t working) together. They then suggest, ala Netflix, what to do about it, giving network managers a list of configuration recommendations to fix specific client incidents or systemic infrastructure problems impacting user performance across the entire infrastructure.\nMost infrastructure vendors, especially those that have Wi-Fi products, are beginning to have an early version of network analytics. Advanced analytics approaches now coming to market from new upstarts are among the most sophisticated vendor-neutral systems in this space. With highly scalable cloud-based platforms designed to crunch massive volumes of data and correlating it across different dimensions, these new solutions figure out what\u2019s actually going on. In turn, remediation recommendations can be automated and surfaced, often times, before network staff even realize there is a problem.\nWhat client device operating systems are behaving poorly within the network? What network services are overloaded or responding slowly? What Wi-Fi access points are providing poor coverage or performance? Which of these is having the biggest impact on user performance and should be fixed first?\nAnswering such questions proactively with a new generation of network analytics technology is the holy grail for enterprise network staff and represents a major leap in transforming network operations from a cost to a profit center.