Several of our clients have come to us recently seeking help with network design. Be it a new facility, or a simple refresh of their switching environment, the questions and desire for support is all the same. As the technology stack changes, our need to align to modern network design principles must shift with it. Today, we review four simple ideas to visit during the design process to ensure your next network deployment is in alignment with your business goals.
Beyond the obvious questions, like port count and user density, several of our recent conversations have focused on the following:
- How does your business plan to adopt to the IOT framework?
- Do you have a plan to collect data from devices on the edge?
- What are the driving forces behind your organization’s growth and how does that impact your connectivity needs within your business?
- Have you properly designed a framework that enables your security posture to succeed?
- Check our recent post to find some simple to implement systems and network ideas to improve your general security posture.
- Has your cloud posture properly aligned to your network design (we’ll visit this below…keep reading!)?
- With all the moving pieces in your environment that fight for connectivity, have you maintained a framework that is manageable?
Once these questions are answered, we can start looking at the state of enterprise networks today. Similarly to the cloud explosion in the data center, the network experience has transformed significantly. That’s not to say the days of digging through CLI’s are dead. More importantly, one should realize the advancement of management interfaces has continued to evolve. Thus, allowing technology-focused employees to remain engaged on business-impactful tasks.
Here are four modern network design principles to structure your decision making.
Despite all the drastic changes occurring across campus and data center networking solutions, in the long run, we believe the simplicity will follow; in fact we’re already starting to see this as most software-based networking solutions enable complete management and control from a single pane of glass.
Imagine, having a holistic view and operational controls for your network from a single interface. All layers. It’s a dream and strategy that can absolutely add value to your organization, no matter what industry or unique challenges you may have.
Ultimately, this direction should have an impact on your network design. Always ask the question, “how does this addition or change impact the complexity of my outcome?”
SCALABILITY & PERFORMANCE
Given the typical network refresh cycle, it’s important to invest in the proper layers to provide a scalable outcome over the next 4-7 years. Scalability and performance historically has always been about layers of hardware redundancy and faster line cards or ASICs. But now, with networking taking a software defined approach, the math has changed. You now have to take a broader perspective at each layer of the network and what the business impact could mean for each department (for better of course).
Simply put, faster speeds on hardware won’t change with the continued, exponential growth of bandwidth requirements. One shift will continue. That being the consolidation of network management. The shifting from the local command line on each switch, or stack, to a unified web front end via software will continue to move forward. This consolidation, in turn, simplifies our management stack and allows for hardware layer of our deployment to focus on moving data.
As you select a network platform, a few things become vital to maintain an adaptable security posture. This conversation obviously brings with it a whole series of qualifiers and can quickly open a can of worms. Ultimately, there is no silver bullet for network security; it’s always about managing risk.
Rather, here are a few quick considerations to bring forward.
- INTEGRATIONS – as you look at your network layer, have you considered the available security integrations on the market? As data moves across your network, are you able to monitor it? Will your selected security platforms provide you with advanced layers of protection without adding complexity?
- AGILITY – deep integrations, should, in theory, also help your agility. Cohesive solutions enable you to react quickly and respond to needed changes on the fly.
- AUTOMATION & LEARNING – further increase your ability to respond quickly by leveraging platforms that reduce the administrative burden associated with managing outcomes.
We believe in “cloud” being a process delivery framework, not a just a location for your data to reside. If properly realized, you gain the advantage of leveraging new applications that drive business relevance while also improving the client experience.
When this framework is applied to networking, we see businesses delivering a new type of agility in alignment with today’s business economy. The requirements to get there? Adopting a software-defined approach is a great start. From there, applying policy and intentional design allows for ecosystem-wide impact and consistency. Finally, your journey to “cloud” becomes a real thing!
PRACTICAL STARTING POINTS
So with all this talk about simplicity, scalability, security and cloud, where do you begin? Our team has a few vital steps we leverage to protect the experiences we support:
Existing Network Design
Gather your facts based on historical needs first. This step becomes important to creating a new destination. We first must know what technology experience we’re delivering today. In most cases, this design doesn’t become a clean one-for-one swap. Rather, we leverage this data to ensure future architectures account for the proper requirements, port counts and capabilities for every layer of the network.
Future Design Scoping
When is the last time you conducted a wireless site survey? Have you ever taken the time to evaluate the long term growth strategy the business has requested? And subsequently, have you layered this trajectory against the systems and network impact? Given the size of these investments, we leverage these data points against current and known future technology roadmaps to generate a current architectural plan. Some additional questions to answer here:
- What are your connectivity requirements?
- Are there any upcoming business changes that need to be considered?
- What level of redundancy do we need to plan for?
- Are there any security integrations we need to account for?
Yes…I know. We’re not talking data center design. But, since we’re putting in the work, ensuring the proper network segmentation is in play is a worthwhile exercise. An open network is a dangerous network.
Cloud Continuity Review
As our workload distribution has shifted over the last handful of years, the supporting networking architectures has also required adjustment. Incorporating these modern network design principles will go a long way to moving you down the path.
Have you approached these distributed workloads with intentionality? What if cloud services are disrupted? Is your network ready to support these requirements? These conversations go far beyond the traditional hardware redundancy that we’re used to. As we discussed in Considerations When Deploying Network Access Control, intentionality and forethought increase the likelihood of success during times of implementation and troubleshooting.
As always, be excellent. Strive for something better. And if you need help, we’re a handshake away.