Modern IT infrastructure management is defined by the struggle to keep an increasingly complex architecture of critical business services running 24/7 without interruption. According to a recent report from Siemens, a single hour of unplanned downtime could cost businesses anywhere from $39,000 to $2 million. The ability to maintain continuous business operations and recover from outages with minimal disruption is known as network resilience, and it should be the top priority for any organization. Infrastructure teams face numerous challenges on their path to creating resilience, including management complexity, cybersecurity threats, vendor lock-in, bloated tech stacks, and poorly supported legacy devices. This post analyzes the top 5 IT infrastructure management challenges while providing potential solutions and additional resources.
Table of Contents
The top 5 IT infrastructure management challenges & solutions:
1. Challenge: Increasing complexity
As organizations evolve their capabilities and service offerings with advanced technology like artificial intelligence (AI), the supporting infrastructure grows more complex. For example, microservice applications are extremely agile and allow software teams to deliver advanced, high-performance products very quickly and efficiently. Building and maintaining the containerized environments, network logic, and security architecture to host and support those applications is difficult and prone to human error. A lot of human error occurs during tedious, repetitive tasks like device security configurations. These mistakes are the cause of up to 35% of cybersecurity incidents, so minimizing human error is critical to network resilience.
Solution: Network automation
Tedious IT infrastructure and network management workflows are perfect candidates for automation. For example, zero touch provisioning (ZTP) turns network device configurations into software code, allowing admins to pre-write configuration files that can be tested and verified before deployment. Teams can ship factory-condition devices to remote data centers and branches, where a non-expert plugs the device into power and networking. As soon as the device connects to DHCP, it downloads its ZTP configuration file and automatically configures itself. ZTP significantly reduces human intervention in the deployment process, which minimizes the risk of errors. Devices with accurate security configurations are less likely to contain vulnerabilities. In addition, automating tasks like patch management will further reduce vulnerabilities, improving network resilience.
To learn how ZTP and automated deployments can shrink deployment times, download this Vapor IO case study.
2. Challenge: Ransomware
Ransomware attacks on businesses are so frequent that many organizations consider them inevitable, and Gartner calls ransomware the modern disaster. Standard ransomware takes over the network and encrypts all of an organization’s data until the ransom is paid, bringing operations to a screeching halt. Newer attacks, such as the Cl0p MOVEit breach currently affecting Shell and other major energy companies, use randomware tactics to harvest sensitive data for ransom. Ransomware attacks often start with social engineering tactics that are difficult to prevent with security technology alone. Once the network is infected, ransomware is nearly impossible to stop and difficult to recover from without reinfecting backup data and systems. While there are many other types of cybersecurity threats, ransomware’s frequency and business impact make it one of the biggest IT infrastructure management challenges.
Solution: Isolated management infrastructure
Network micro-segmentation, Zero Trust security policies, advanced authentication methods, and other security controls help prevent some attacks and can limit the blast radius of others. However, there’s no way to ensure 100% protection, so organizations should focus instead on building a comprehensive recovery architecture to decrease downtime and reduce the risk of reinfection. This can be done using something called Isolated Management Infrastructure (IMI). An isolated management infrastructure using out-of-band (OOB) serial consoles gives teams a dedicated control plane that’s separate from the production network. This creates an isolated recovery environment where they can rebuild systems, restore data, and perform security validation without the risk of reinfection undoing their efforts. It also takes management interfaces off the production network as mandated by a recent CISA binding directive. An IMI improves resilience by speeding up recovery times so business can resume faster.
For more help building ransomware resilience, download our 3 Steps to Ransomware Recovery whitepaper.
3. Challenge: Lack of integration & vendor freedom
Most IT infrastructure is a mix of features and services provided by different vendors, each with its own software and interface used to manage them. Some IT infrastructure management teams compromise on features, security, redundancy, etc., to stay in their vendor’s ecosystem, which makes it difficult to build a custom-fit network. Many teams opt instead to manage each vendor solution separately with little interoperability. This lack of integration makes centralized orchestration especially challenging. A fragmented view of networks and infrastructure makes it difficult to spot systemic issues or signs of compromise. Managing solutions individually is inefficient and tedious, which increases the risk of human error. In fact, organizations wait an average of 205 days to patch systems because they’re afraid an update will break their operations. Vendor lock-in is a significant hurdle on the path to network resilience.
Solution: Vendor-neutral platforms
Flexibility and agility are key here; enterprises need to adopt a network infrastructure that can accommodate their exact needs and adapt when those needs change. Teams also need centralized orchestration of the entire multi-vendor architecture. This requires a vendor-neutral infrastructure management platform that can dig its hooks into any solution on your network. For example, OOB serial consoles running open, Linux-based operating systems offer unified management of mixed-vendor infrastructure. Some solutions can even host third-party software for SASE, NGFWs, and other network and security services. Administrators get a single centralized management platform that provides 360-degree visibility and control, improving security coverage and reducing human error. This OOB platform also creates the isolated management infrastructure described above. The IMI itself is a vendor-neutral platform that allows for safe management, including applying patches and deploying automation. This platform also provides an “undo button” in case mistakes are made. That way, teams don’t need to be afraid of breaking their own systems while applying necessary updates.
|Learn more about vendor-neutral infrastructure management|
4. Challenge: Overwhelming tech stacks
IT managers working with an enterprise network have a massive variety of equipment and software to work with to make their networks function efficiently. These solutions often include, but are not limited to,
- Servers, switches, and routers
- Out-of-band management hardware
- Firewalls and other security solutions
- Data backup and configuration devices
- Cellular failover boxes
Each new solution added to the network must be secured, monitored, maintained, and patched. Keeping track of vulnerabilities and patch schedules for so many devices and applications is challenging, but unpatched infrastructure is risky to network security and resilience. All these moving parts are potential points of failure, so keeping them functioning and optimally performing is critical. Still, it’s difficult to be proactive about maintenance with so many disparate solutions to keep track of.
Solution: Consolidated infrastructure
There are three ways to overcome this IT infrastructure management challenge. In the previous section, we discussed how a vendor-neutral platform streamlines the management of multi-vendor devices, which also helps infrastructure teams stay on top of patch schedules and maintenance. Before that, we mentioned automation as a way to reduce complexity, but it also helps reduce maintenance workloads. For example, automated infrastructure monitoring solutions keep track of software versioning information and alert teams when vendors announce vulnerabilities or release patches. Some solutions also employ machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze monitoring data, predict potential issues, and suggest optimal maintenance schedules. The third method uses converged infrastructure solutions that combine many different functions in a single device or platform. For example, you can deploy an integrated branch router that rolls up network functions, out-of-band management, security, and cellular failover in a single box. Some vendor-neutral solutions let you host third-party software as well, so you can add application delivery, SASE, configuration management, and more.
|A 3-pronged approach to simplifying tech stacks|
This three-pronged approach to infrastructure management helps streamline the tech stack to improve network performance and resilience.
5. Challenge: Legacy infrastructure
As providers modernize and upgrade their service offerings, older devices fall out of support. These “legacy devices” are outdated and incapable of integrating with modern software by themselves. As a result, they slow down workflows and inhibit automation efforts. Legacy devices pose significant security risks since the vendor no longer patches new vulnerabilities. Despite their inherent flaws, enterprises insist on using legacy systems, citing staff familiarity, high replacement costs, and potential service disruptions as reasons for keeping them around. For example, 53% of healthcare devices still operate on Windows 7, which Microsoft no longer supports. Unless those devices are updated, they cannot be properly secured.
Solution: Legacy modernization platforms
When replacing legacy devices is impossible, the next best option is to bring them on board your modern IT management platform. For example, some serial consoles use auto-sensing ports to automatically detect legacy devices and integrate them under the same management umbrella as newer systems. A vendor-neutral legacy modernization platform like Nodegrid can even push automation to older devices that otherwise wouldn’t be supported. This reduces the friction created by older infrastructure, so administrators can incorporate them into their automated workflows. Nodegrid also extends security coverage – including modern Zero Trust solutions and automated security monitoring – to legacy devices to ensure there are no gaps. Legacy modernization with the Nodegrid platform improves network resilience without the disruption of an infrastructure upgrade.
Solving IT infrastructure management challenges with ZPE Systems
All the biggest IT infrastructure management challenges revolve around network resilience. Automation, security solutions, vendor-neutral platforms, and legacy modernization help reduce the frequency of outages, but for true resilience, organizations must be able to recover from the outages that do occur and get services up and running as quickly and possible to minimize the impact of downtime on revenue and reputation. An isolated management infrastructure using Gen 3 out-of-band serial consoles provides a dedicated control plane for troubleshooting and recovery operations. For example, using Nodegrid OOB management solutions from ZPE Systems, teams get 24/7 access to remote infrastructure even during network outages and ransomware attacks. This OOB network provides a safe environment to restore and rebuild systems, applications, and data without the risk of reinfection. Nodegrid is a vendor-neutral infrastructure orchestration platform that brings all your mixed-vendor and legacy systems together under a single management umbrella. Nodegrid’s Linux-based OS extends automation and security coverage to outdated equipment to streamline workflows and provide a 360-degree view of the entire architecture.