Introducing IP Fabric V6
Home
>
Blog
>
Choosing the Right Network Tools: 4 Criteria to Consider
|

Choosing the Right Network Tools: 4 Criteria to Consider

4 minute read
Home
>
Blog
>
Choosing the Right Network Tools: 4 Criteria to Consider
Updated: February 13, 2024
January 15, 2024
Updated: February 13, 2024
4 mins

For tech purchasing teams who are ready to embrace a robust network tooling ecosystem, ensuring you pick right - that is - get real value from your tools, and quickly - is step one. Whether it's driving innovation through network automation or actualizing a successful intent-based networking strategy, one thing is clear: the unique DNA of every network dictates a unique set of network tools, influenced by the company’s strategic objectives, operational constraints, and available resources.

That said, there are some core criteria you can use as a compass.

Many teams find themselves ensnared in common, yet avoidable pitfalls: sprawling toolsets that offer little return on investment, glaring functionality gaps, and restrictive vendor lock-in, or even process lock-in, where tools are dictating how you operate your network.

In this post, we’ll share four critical ways to evaluate network tools to steer clear of these traps. That's not to say every tool you need will be able to fulfill these criteria perfectly and you can't wait around for every platform or tool to be perfect; but when it comes to decision time, these criteria can help you keep the future front of mind.

A yellow box stands out from a crowd of blue boxes, representing the selection of ideal  network tools from a crowded market

Remember, a network that's secure, observable, and agile doesn't just happen. It's underpinned by strategy, enabled by a carefully selected ecosystem of tools ensuring that no functionality gap goes unfilled. Here's how to pick network tools that don't just promise, but deliver tangible value.

  1. Integration Methods
  2. Vendor, Domain, and Technology Restrictions
  3. Ease of Deployment and Use
  4. Maximizing Value Beyond Primary Use Cases

Network Tool Integration Methods

In IT networking, the integration of different tools can make or break the flow of operations. An open approach, where network vendors encourage and support integration and make the necessary data readily available, can inform your network operations strategy as it determines how effectively your team can share and act upon network data. When selecting tools, consider the spectrum of integration methods available.

Open and robust API programmability sits at the forefront of this spectrum, offering a future-proof solution that allows for dynamic responses to evolving network demands. An API-first tool can seamlessly share data across various platforms, enabling automation and fostering innovation within your network infrastructure.

Blog Post: IP Fabric API Programmability - Part 1 - The Basics

On the other hand, pre-built integrations can indicate a vendor's foresight and readiness to integrate with the broader ecosystem of tools you employ. These integrations can be a testament to the vendor's commitment to user-friendliness and their understanding of the network management landscape. They save time and resources, providing out-of-the-box connectivity that can accelerate deployment and facilitate immediate operational efficiency. Maybe the tooling vendor you're eyeing up doesn't have every pre-built solution today, but how do they talk about their plans for this - do they regularly collaborate with others in the space, and actively put forth impactful partnerships where they know customers will benefit?

However, there will be instances where neither API programmability nor pre-built solutions meet the unique needs of your network. This is where self-built, for-purpose integrations come into play. While they represent a tailored fit to your specific requirements, they also come with considerations of maintenance and long-term viability. It's crucial to weigh the benefits of custom-built integrations against the potential for creating future bottlenecks or legacy issues that could turn a creative solution into a hindrance.

The goal is always to enhance capabilities without compromising on adaptability and growth.

Minimize Vendor, Domain, and Technology Restrictions

For a modern enterprise network, diversity is the norm, with a mix of vendors, domains, and technologies - all essential to meet comprehensive business needs. This complexity necessitates network tools capable of managing the entire network ecosystem, beyond the limitations of vendor-specific or domain-restricted solutions. Relying on tools confined to single vendors or network segments can fragment your network management visibility - and therefore, strategy.

To circumvent the pitfalls of vendor lock-in and ensure transparency across network domains, it's prudent to invest in tools that embrace a vendor-neutral stance and aim to support all network domains. Such tools offer the flexibility, completeness, and extensibility needed to truly future-proof your network, fostering an environment that's prepared for the technologies of tomorrow.

The aim is true end-to-end control of your network.

Related Blog Post: A Holistic Approach to Network Discovery

Ease of Deployment and Use of Network Tools

When selecting network management tools, it's crucial to opt for solutions that do what they promise without becoming a burden on resources. From deployment to ongoing maintenance, if your team is spending hours getting a platform to produce the results you need, and growing frustrated in the process, then the juice is not worth the squeeze.

That said, it's not only about the effort you have to put in today; what about future strategy? Will this tool support your processes should it pivot?

As demands on the network shift and grow, you’ll likely be using a combination of legacy processes and tools as well as adopting newer strategies, like NetDevOps and CI/CD pipeline-based approaches to network management.

Flexibility is key; as network demands evolve, tools should adapt, avoiding process lock-in. The goal is to choose tools that serve as a seamless extension of your data infrastructure, allowing your team to remain agile and effective, not tethered to restrictive tooling.

Maximizing Value Beyond Primary Use Cases (Over Time)

Of course, when you’re purchasing a tool, you want it to fulfill a particular function. Some tools are only ever going to be one thing, and that’s okay if you feel you’re getting the promised value. For other tools, however, a bit of creative foresight can reveal endless potential and become a really exciting prospect of value that compounds. These tools – if selected carefully – can become your heroes, your Swiss Army Knives of enterprise networking that are beloved by not just you, but throughout an organization.

Generally, there are tools that 1) Do not create more data silos but are built to democratize access to valuable data. 2) Encourage and assist with creative use of that network data.

Download: IP Fabric's Baseline - Operate - Innovate Framework

All to say, while all network tools should fix an immediate problem, the BEST tools also lay fertile groundwork for future innovation.

Choosing the Right Network Tools: 4 Criteria to Consider

For tech purchasing teams who are ready to embrace a robust network tooling ecosystem, ensuring you pick right - that is - get real value from your tools, and quickly - is step one. Whether it's driving innovation through network automation or actualizing a successful intent-based networking strategy, one thing is clear: the unique DNA of every network dictates a unique set of network tools, influenced by the company’s strategic objectives, operational constraints, and available resources.

That said, there are some core criteria you can use as a compass.

Many teams find themselves ensnared in common, yet avoidable pitfalls: sprawling toolsets that offer little return on investment, glaring functionality gaps, and restrictive vendor lock-in, or even process lock-in, where tools are dictating how you operate your network.

In this post, we’ll share four critical ways to evaluate network tools to steer clear of these traps. That's not to say every tool you need will be able to fulfill these criteria perfectly and you can't wait around for every platform or tool to be perfect; but when it comes to decision time, these criteria can help you keep the future front of mind.

A yellow box stands out from a crowd of blue boxes, representing the selection of ideal  network tools from a crowded market

Remember, a network that's secure, observable, and agile doesn't just happen. It's underpinned by strategy, enabled by a carefully selected ecosystem of tools ensuring that no functionality gap goes unfilled. Here's how to pick network tools that don't just promise, but deliver tangible value.

  1. Integration Methods
  2. Vendor, Domain, and Technology Restrictions
  3. Ease of Deployment and Use
  4. Maximizing Value Beyond Primary Use Cases

Network Tool Integration Methods

In IT networking, the integration of different tools can make or break the flow of operations. An open approach, where network vendors encourage and support integration and make the necessary data readily available, can inform your network operations strategy as it determines how effectively your team can share and act upon network data. When selecting tools, consider the spectrum of integration methods available.

Open and robust API programmability sits at the forefront of this spectrum, offering a future-proof solution that allows for dynamic responses to evolving network demands. An API-first tool can seamlessly share data across various platforms, enabling automation and fostering innovation within your network infrastructure.

Blog Post: IP Fabric API Programmability - Part 1 - The Basics

On the other hand, pre-built integrations can indicate a vendor's foresight and readiness to integrate with the broader ecosystem of tools you employ. These integrations can be a testament to the vendor's commitment to user-friendliness and their understanding of the network management landscape. They save time and resources, providing out-of-the-box connectivity that can accelerate deployment and facilitate immediate operational efficiency. Maybe the tooling vendor you're eyeing up doesn't have every pre-built solution today, but how do they talk about their plans for this - do they regularly collaborate with others in the space, and actively put forth impactful partnerships where they know customers will benefit?

However, there will be instances where neither API programmability nor pre-built solutions meet the unique needs of your network. This is where self-built, for-purpose integrations come into play. While they represent a tailored fit to your specific requirements, they also come with considerations of maintenance and long-term viability. It's crucial to weigh the benefits of custom-built integrations against the potential for creating future bottlenecks or legacy issues that could turn a creative solution into a hindrance.

The goal is always to enhance capabilities without compromising on adaptability and growth.

Minimize Vendor, Domain, and Technology Restrictions

For a modern enterprise network, diversity is the norm, with a mix of vendors, domains, and technologies - all essential to meet comprehensive business needs. This complexity necessitates network tools capable of managing the entire network ecosystem, beyond the limitations of vendor-specific or domain-restricted solutions. Relying on tools confined to single vendors or network segments can fragment your network management visibility - and therefore, strategy.

To circumvent the pitfalls of vendor lock-in and ensure transparency across network domains, it's prudent to invest in tools that embrace a vendor-neutral stance and aim to support all network domains. Such tools offer the flexibility, completeness, and extensibility needed to truly future-proof your network, fostering an environment that's prepared for the technologies of tomorrow.

The aim is true end-to-end control of your network.

Related Blog Post: A Holistic Approach to Network Discovery

Ease of Deployment and Use of Network Tools

When selecting network management tools, it's crucial to opt for solutions that do what they promise without becoming a burden on resources. From deployment to ongoing maintenance, if your team is spending hours getting a platform to produce the results you need, and growing frustrated in the process, then the juice is not worth the squeeze.

That said, it's not only about the effort you have to put in today; what about future strategy? Will this tool support your processes should it pivot?

As demands on the network shift and grow, you’ll likely be using a combination of legacy processes and tools as well as adopting newer strategies, like NetDevOps and CI/CD pipeline-based approaches to network management.

Flexibility is key; as network demands evolve, tools should adapt, avoiding process lock-in. The goal is to choose tools that serve as a seamless extension of your data infrastructure, allowing your team to remain agile and effective, not tethered to restrictive tooling.

Maximizing Value Beyond Primary Use Cases (Over Time)

Of course, when you’re purchasing a tool, you want it to fulfill a particular function. Some tools are only ever going to be one thing, and that’s okay if you feel you’re getting the promised value. For other tools, however, a bit of creative foresight can reveal endless potential and become a really exciting prospect of value that compounds. These tools – if selected carefully – can become your heroes, your Swiss Army Knives of enterprise networking that are beloved by not just you, but throughout an organization.

Generally, there are tools that 1) Do not create more data silos but are built to democratize access to valuable data. 2) Encourage and assist with creative use of that network data.

Download: IP Fabric's Baseline - Operate - Innovate Framework

All to say, while all network tools should fix an immediate problem, the BEST tools also lay fertile groundwork for future innovation.

SHARE
Demo

Try out the platform

Test out IP Fabric’s automated network assurance platform yourself and be inspired by the endless possibilities.

What would this change for your network teams?
Start live demo
 
 
 
 
 
We're Hiring!
Join the Team and be part of the Future of Network Automation
Available Positions
IP Fabric, Inc.
115 BROADWAY, 5th Floor
NEW YORK NY, 10006
United States
IP Fabric s.r.o.
Kateřinská 466/40
Praha 2 - Nové Město, 120 00
Czech Republic
This is a block of text. Double-click this text to edit it.
Phone : +420 720 022 997
IP Fabric UK Limited
Gateley Legal, 1 Paternoster Square, London,
England EC4M 7DX
This is a block of text. Double-click this text to edit it.
Phone : +420 720 022 997
IP Fabric, Inc. © 2024 All Rights Reserved