Systems Management and the FCAPS Standard
Managing systems and networks ultimately means understanding what they comprise, what they can do, and who’s allowed to use them. In IT, systems and network management is an important discipline with a long history, with many approaches and tools to implement them.
FCAPS Sets the Management Stage
Figure 1: FCAPS guides most of what goes into network monitoring and management
This model, shown in Figure 1, is called FCAPS, where each letter in that acronym defines one aspect in a network (and device) management framework. FCAPS is best understood as follows:
- Fault: Because network faults can be significant, managing them means recognizing, isolating, correcting, and logging them as they occur. Trend analysis of fault history permits proactive responses to improve network reliability and availability.
- Configuration: Configuration represents system set-up and configuration data. Configuration management involves collecting and storing such data, often in a database (usually called CMDB, for configuration management database). This data is tracked, and changes noted and documented. Creating templates and scripts to customize or localize configurations is key to modern provisioning and orchestration.
- Accounting: Accounting tracks resources consumed, as well as who uses (or is responsible for) them. Accounting data may be used to generate actual bills, or chargebacks, depending on usage, rates, quotas or allowances, and schedules.
- Performance: Performance tools monitor networks and applications for bandwidth, throughput, response time, packet loss and error rates, signal quality, and so on. Performance monitoring may be tied to service-level agreements, availability and reliability metrics, and more. Performance data is key to measuring and monitoring network health. Trend analysis pinpoints capacity and reliability for future planning.
- Security: Security management hinges on controlling access to network assets. This includes data security and access security, typically managed using authentication, ACLs, and encryption. Protection against threats is also crucial to security management. It requires a thorough understanding of IT assets in use so related vulnerabilities can be monitored, avoided, or mitigated, as circumstances dictate.
FCAPS Must Evolve
As complex and far-ranging as FCAPS is, its principles need to be updated to reflect the new reality of what must be managed, and where assets are likely to be housed and situated. FCAPS represents a “pre-cloud” phenomenon in that assets are implicitly and inherently assumed to be owned and controlled by those who use them. Thus, ownership, responsibility, and control were straightforward and unambiguous.
Today, businesses remain responsible for data, applications, and services that run in the cloud. But they share that responsibility with cloud service providers who own and control the equipment on which these entities run or live.
Thus, businesses must understand how FCAPS (and other IT management concerns, such as data protection, reliability and availability, provisioning and orchestration, and cost optimization) plays in the cloud as well as on-premises.
This adds both impetus and urgency to the need to aggregate and display alerts, reports, status, and management data under a single, coherent user interface, irrespective of where IT assets, such as computers, other devices, data, applications, or services reside.
Such consolidation permits better visibility into cost and performance data. It also offers better opportunities to manage and optimize such things dynamically, as demand or usage increases and decreases. This even permits application of consistent, business-driven policies and procedures to IT elements of all kinds, whether on-premises or in the cloud.