Network management is the process of controlling the connectivity and configurations between devices and the things that use them, which typically encompasses 2 categories in IT: underlay networking and overlay networking.
Underlay network management (or simply underlay networking) involves coordinating hardware devices like hubs, switches, routers, bridges, gateways, modems, and repeaters. Overlay network management (or simply overlay networking) involves building digital connections and managing permissions between end users, applications, or devices—all of which exist virtually as nodes.
- Underlay network management: A network engineer could use Red Hat® Ansible® Automation Platform to automate the network configuration of physical devices such as servers, switches, routers, and load balancers.
- Overlay network management: A network administrator could use something like software-defined networking (SDN) to separate network forwarding functions from network control functions in order to create connections between network hardware and digital nodes.
Network configuration includes defining the desired state of networks or networked devices, and then maintaining them in that state over time. Network configuration logically follows network provisioning.
Network security includes establishing security systems and security management protocols that protect networks against attack, damage, or unauthorized access. Network managers or network security administrators establish traffic routing protocols known as firewalls. They set up fault management systems that identify and remediate security, compliance, and configuration risks—all of which is improved by network automation technology. Some network security systems also provide remediation guidance that helps network administrators troubleshoot issues.
Network measurement includes network monitoring and testing; network monitoring and troubleshooting; ensuring high availability; and preparing disaster recovery plans. Measuring a network helps maintain network performance, which is the speed and efficiency at which data is transferred across network devices—known as network traffic—to improve bandwidth and response time. Performance management and performance monitoring can help identify performance issues; minimize downtime and outages; and have the auxiliary effect of improving application performance.
The difference between network management and network automation lies in the (highly subjective) differences between management and automation. Since there’s no such thing as seamless automation, there’s also no objective point at which management becomes automation. At some point, the human effort required to manage a set of tasks is significantly less than before. When that happens, what was once described as management might now be described as automation.
Underlay network management: Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform contains thousands of network automation modules that can help you configure all types of network hardware. It turns network hardware into infrastructure-as-code (IaC), just like Linux® did. Most network switches come bundled with the vendor’s software, but Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform connects and acts on it. So a network engineer only has to know Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, which commoditizes speciality network interfaces and proprietary hardware.
Overlay network management:
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux: Configure VLAN tagging; network bridges, network teams, network bonds, VPN connections, IP tunnels, default gateway settings, static routes, policy-based routing, and more.
- Red Hat OpenStack Platform: Among the numerous open source projects that feed into the hardened Red Hat OpenStack® Platform is neutron, which connects networks across other OpenStack services. Network administrators can use Red Hat OpenStack Platform’s SDN to manage network services.
- Red Hat OpenShift and Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management for Kubernetes: Use SDN to create unified clustered networks, where network pods are configured as overlay networks.
- Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure: Virtualize network functions in a hyperconverged infrastructure that allows IT operations to control network traffic in complex networking topologies through a centralized panel instead of handling each network device manually.
Because managing a network never starts out as a big lift—but usually ends up as one. We can help you navigate network management challenges with software that manages underlay and overlay networks, and we can teach you along the way.
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