December 1, 2022

Evaluating Network Validation Solutions

by Fabrizio Maccioni

Sometimes as a network engineer, you may feel like you're walking through a carnival where the barker shouts, "Step right up, ladies and gentlemen," promising something never seen before, only to find a poorly constructed paper mache replica of the impossible (or in our world, vaporware). Eventually, you become jaded and ignore the shouts until someone you trust tells you to take a look. (TLDR - check out the GigaOm Network Validation Radar and Key Criteria Report)

Some may believe network validation technology is too good to be true. In an era where network complexity is increasing exponentially, it’s impossible for the human mind to make sense of the environment and ensure it’s performing as intended. The average enterprise network includes multiple clouds, tens of thousands of networking devices, and us running billions of lines of configuration. The only thing constant in the modern network is change. Simple changes such as adding a rack, upgrading the operating system (OS), or adding a border gateway protocol (BGP) peer or virtual local area network (VLAN) can cause an outage with significant business repercussions. 

Even in this era of unprecedented complexity, many enterprise IT shops are approaching network validation manually. According to GigaOm, manual validation is “error-prone, operationally tedious, and ineffective,” leaving network teams uncertain if the network is in policy and functioning as designed.

GigaOm states that enterprises need a modern approach to change management and ensuring compliance across the entire compute estate. Network validation offers an automated approach that can accelerate the pace of change while reducing risk by injecting consistency and discipline. Network and security operations teams need a single network source of truth to ensure that the network is performing as intended, including:

  • Business intent: The intent of the business is to ensure that customers, employees, and partners have secure access to the required applications, data, and services based on predefined service-level agreements (SLAs).
  • Network intent: The intent of the network is to ensure the physical underlay and the virtual connectivity overlay are in place to support customer, employee, and partner access to applications, data, and services based on defined service-level objectives (SLOs).
  • Security intent: The intent of security is to protect corporate, customer, employee, and partner assets by implementing consistent, policy-based zero-trust network access (ZTNA) spanning on-premises, cloud, hybrid, and multi-cloud environments.

GigaOm recommends automating as much of the process as possible with pre-change and post-change network validation to assess whether the network is performing as desired before and after each change. To that end, they’ve written a key criteria report that provides detailed recommendations on evaluating network validation software. They’ve broken down the process to help ensure enterprises are successful. Beginning by ensuring that the validation project is scoped correctly, done at the right time, and uses the right approach for the network or use case. They then break down the most common features by category (Table Stakes, Key Criteria, Emergent Technologies) to help enterprises select the best technology for their needs.

The corresponding Radar Report provides an overview of notable network validation vendors, their use cases, and supported features.

Source: GigaOm 2022
+++ Exceptional: Outstanding focus and execution
++ Capable: Good but with room for improvement
+ Limited: Lacking in execution and use cases
— Not applicable or absent

Evaluating new technology and determining its value to your organization takes time and effort. That’s why we’re making the GigaOm Network Validation Key Criteria and Network Validation Radar Reports available to you free of charge. As a respected third-party research firm, GigaOm has advised IT leaders in every industry and frequently evaluates vendor technology. The reports they’ve written offer an objective source of data and starting point for anyone looking to adopt network validation.

Read the reports now.

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