Computer networks are becoming increasingly complex systems. Since their inception, they have been continuously growing in available bandwidth, and have become pervasive. Together with these phenomena, a number of business-critical applications have emerged, such as e-mail, intranets, collaborative tools, and, with the rise of Voice over IP services, even telephony. This is a positive-feedback loop, because the emergence of more applications in turn calls for larger networks that offer more bandwidth.

As an end consequence of this never-ending process, networks are becoming complex systems that are harder and harder to manage while, at the same time, their correct operation is critical to most organisations.

It is widely accepted that one cannot manage what cannot be measured. However, today's prevalent network technologies were not designed with the necessity of network monitoring in mind. Unless the right tools are deployed, today’s networks operate as black boxes, where it is not easy to determine the root cause of malfunctions.

Additionally, networks are hostile environments, where, unless properly protected, any host, or indeed the networks themselves, can be subject to attacks from any number of other participating nodes. So, one must be prepared not only to quickly detect and fix network component failures, but also be ready to battle viruses, worms, stealthy intrusions, as well as to be aware of the many attack vectors, internal and external.

The basic requirement to correctly manage such a complex infrastructure is to be able to see its state. By gaining visibility over a network, there are a series of processes that can be enhanced. Most obviously, network operation can be accelerated, especially for troubleshooting of problems that have a simple solution once they are properly diagnosed. For example, imagine a host is causing congestion by using a high-bandwidth application that is prohibited by corporate policy; only with visibility can you understand the cause for congestion, locate the source of this congestion, and remove it. Besides operations, network visibility enables better network planning. By collecting statistics over the usage of the network, it is possible to observe long-term trends and anticipate future problems.

The good news is that, since you are reading this, you have access to a network visibility solution called Talaia. In this Help Centre, we will review the features of Talaia, walk you through its user interface, and provide guidance for administrators to configure it.

Happy networking! 😀

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