If your wireless, firewall and switch devices all come from the same vendor, it’s much easier to use that vendor’s management platform to configure and monitor those devices with the same tool. While there are still many multi-vendor networks, IT teams are increasingly finding that the benefits of having a single vendor for the three major areas — wireless, LAN and network security — can justify consolidation during upgrade and refresh cycles.
New Deployment Tools Lead to Shifts in K–12 Network Management
A second development in unified network management is the shift to different deployment models for network management tools. This isn’t just moving the on-premises software to a cloud-based Infrastructure as a Service provider, but a shift of management tools from a locally run application to a Software as a Service (SaaS) product or a dedicated network management appliance.
There are also exciting developments in orchestration and DevOps that are bringing unified configuration to the data center for K–12 organizations and other industries, delivering improved technology for multi-vendor network management.
In the past, running any comprehensive network management tool locally meant bringing a lot of resources to the table: multiple servers, big databases and the staff to keep all the software current, secure and running smoothly.
Today, many network hardware vendors are also offering SaaS and appliance options. These options are especially attractive to K–12 IT teams because they eliminate the burden of hosting the network management tools, and they ensure that updates and upgrades are performed in a timely manner.
Midsize networks, like those in K–12 schools, are a great fit for cloud-based and appliance-based management tools.
Single-Pane-of-Glass Solutions Support Compliance and Security
K–12 networks have grown from a few computers in a lab to universal Wi-Fi. Today, there’s an expectation that internet and school server access will be available whenever and wherever the learning calls for it. Couple that with increasing compliance requirements and a push for zero-trust environments in schools, and you’ve significantly raised the bar for network management.
These needs help steer IT managers toward unified management for network infrastructure and security components. Single-pane-of-glass management tools make it easy to push configurations to dozens or hundreds of devices in a few minutes, either for scheduled maintenance or for emergency changes. Having a single tool for multiple devices dramatically reduces the risk of inconsistent configuration — a gap in the network armor that can let intruders get a foothold.
K–12 network managers who have rejected unified network management in the past should re-evaluate the state-of-the-art options available. Network and security technology, best-practices architectures and vendor offerings have all shifted significantly in a direction that brings the elusive single-pane-of-glass management within close reach.