IT managers must have a complete inventory of the make, model and operating system of all network devices, including switches, routers, wireless access points and load balancers.
In addition, testing will be greatly enhanced by documenting in detail the change management process. With an inventory list in one hand and a change management process in the other, IT managers should be able to determine quickly which change management products to bring in based on the support level these products provide for equipment and processes already in use.
The next phase of testing determines how much load the change management tool places on network bandwidth. And most important are tests to determine how much control the operator has over this load. Look for scheduling routines that allow phased rollouts of configurations.
Bandwidth measurements are relatively easy to determine. The impact of a network change management tool on IT processes is much more difficult to determine: This is where the documented change management procedure comes into play.
eWEEK Labs recommends that IT managers first see how well the network change management tool fits in to the existing process. Questions to ask are: "Does the product support the various levels of administrative users that exist in our workplace?" and "Can configurations be created and maintained to the standards already in place in the department?"
During this process, substantial efficiencies over the current method of change management should be readily apparent, and the decision on whether to purchase the product likely will be straightforward.
If process efficiencies are not easily discovered, managers might be tempted to look at the bells and whistles that are included in many change management products. One example of this is reports designed to show compliance with government regulation. However, these types of reports are usually just fancy doodads and not really a justification for investing in a change management tool, absent other compelling features.
For example, although we liked the Sarbanes-Oxley Act reporting tool in DeviceAuthority, there is no clear evidence that SarbOx requires managers to show this level of detail for network devices that merely transport data without storing or acting on the information.
Finally, its important to gauge the size of the job. Use network documentation to determine the correct number and placement of components needed to best support the change management product. Its a lot easier to avoid overspending on a project of this size if IT uses the pilot test to understand the best placement of usually expensive network configuration management components to ensure that only the correct number is purchased to do the job.
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Cameron Sturdevant is the executive editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Prior to ENP, Cameron was technical analyst at PCWeek Labs, starting in 1997. Cameron finished up as the eWEEK Labs Technical Director in 2012. Before his extensive labs tenure Cameron paid his IT dues working in technical support and sales engineering at a software publishing firm . Cameron also spent two years with a database development firm, integrating applications with mainframe legacy programs. Cameron's areas of expertise include virtual and physical IT infrastructure, cloud computing, enterprise networking and mobility. In addition to reviews, Cameron has covered monolithic enterprise management systems throughout their lifecycles, providing the eWEEK reader with all-important history and context. Cameron takes special care in cultivating his IT manager contacts, to ensure that his analysis is grounded in real-world concern. Follow Cameron on Twitter at csturdevant, or reach him by email at email@example.com.