Don’t forget the network

Don’t forget the network How to manage your organisation’s constantly evolving IT network requirements October 2011 The overall IT networking requirements of a given organisation are not provided as a single utility. Instead they comprise a constantly evolving patchwork of technology and services, some maintained in-house and some provided by third parties, the availability and performance of which are often taken for granted until something goes wrong. Over time this ‘network’ has become embed

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    Copyright Quocirca © 2011Bob TarzeyQuocirca LtdTel : +44 7900 275517Email:  Rob BamforthQuocirca LtdTel: +44 7802 175796 Email:     Don’t forget the network   How to manage your organisation ’  s constantly evolving IT network requirements October 2011 The overall IT networking requirements of a given organisation are notprovided as a single utility. Instead they comprise a constantly evolvingpatchwork of technology and services, some maintained in-house andsome provided by third parties, the availability and performance of whichare often taken for granted until something goes wrong.Over time this ‘network’ has become embedded in nearly every businessprocess; when the network fails the processes fail too. To prevent thishappening, businesses need their networks to be managed with the samediligence that would be applied to any fundamental asset. Only when thisis the case can they be sure that availability, performance and securitylevels will be maintained as the demands on the network increase. Thisrequires proactive monitoring and maintenance; a network can only beeffectively managed if its performance is first measured.This report looks at the range of factors that can lead to an organisation’s network failing to serve as well as it should and what organisations withlimited resources can do to ensure that it does so in the future.    Don’t forget the network    © Quocirca 2011 - 2 - Don’t forget the network   How to manage your organisation ’  s constantly evolving IT network requirements The network services that an organisation relies on should be managed with the same diligence that would be applied to any fundamental business asset. This is a challenge because the total networking requirements for a givenorganisation are not provided as a single utility, but are a complex mix of constantly evolving technologies and services. This requires constant monitoring and management to maintain availability, performance and security levelsand to ensure future requirements can be met. Many organisations lack the time and/or in-house skills to do this and their overall business may be suffering as a result.   A given IT networkcomprises a complexmix of constantlychanging technologyand services The total IT networking requirements of any given organisation comprise a complexmix of in-house infrastructure and third party services. Taken as a whole, all thiscomes together to form an organisation ’ s IT network, a key asset that nearly all itsbusiness processes rely on to some extent. The network is rarely planned fromscratch, but has evolved over time to keep up with the ever-increasing technologyand business demands placed on it. Network availability,performance andsecurity need to beassured   The network cannot be taken for granted. The availably of most network services hasimproved over time, but this does not mean a guarantee of constant performancelevels. Indeed, as capacity requirements increase, service levels will often degrade if demand is not monitored and managed; standing still will, in effect, mean goingbackwards. An organisation will also be vulnerable if it does not keep on top of thesecurity issues that threaten all IT networks. Business applications  and user apps are thedrivers for networktraffic volumeincreases   Businesses themselves are putting more pressure on networks through theintroduction of bandwidth-hungry applications, for example those using video.However, users and lines-of-business are now often able to introduce their own pay-as-you-go or free apps; this is often done from mobile devices, increasing the datavolumes transmitted over mobile network services. IT departments no longer havefull control over which applications consume network resources.   The virtualisation of data centres and useof cloud-basedservices add furthernetwork demands   Data centre virtualisation means more workloads running on individual physicalservers. The increased network input/output and bandwidth requirements thisimposes are often poorly considered; networks need to evolve to support this.Furthermore, some applications are moving to the cloud whilst others rely on internetfeeds. This has broken down the once-clear interface between internal and publicnetwork services. Traffic moving between the two needs monitoring to ensure end-to-end security and performance and that the given organisation is truly cloud-ready  .   Many networks arenot effectivelymonitored andmanaged  – actionshould be taken now   Those without the appropriate in-house resources, tools and/or skills should considerusing a managed service to ensure network performance, availability, security and themaximum use of available resources. This involves an upfront network-discovery   process because existing infrastructure is often poorly documented and flexibility isneeded to adapt as new network components are introduced. The service levels andcost controls expected from outsourcing network management should be clearly laidout from the start. Conclusions No organisation can afford to neglect its IT network, those that do will fall behind at all sorts of levels. Afunctional network is imperative for a 21 st century business. A well-managed high-availability, high-performance and secure network can be a distinct competitive advantage, a poorly managed one afundamental business risk.    Don’t forget the network    © Quocirca 2011 - 3 - The networking Holy Grail;high - availability, high - performance and security “The network is the system” , averred the Digital Equipment Company (DEC) as far back as 1987 1 . If it was becomingtrue then, it is certainly true now. The IT network system that underpins the use of information technology (IT) inany organisation is an asset that is fundamental to nearly all daily operations. The overall networking requirementsof a given organisation are not provided as a single utility service. Instead, they comprise a constantly evolvingpatchwork of technology and services, some maintained in-house and some provided by third parties, theavailability, performance and security of which are taken for granted until something goes wrong. Overall thesecomp rise a given organisation’s IT network .The network DEC was speaking of was proprietaryand mainly deployed within the premises of a givenorganisation, those with multiple premisesconnected the main ones with leased lines, smallerpremises were often not deemed worthy of beingon the network.Today the internally deployed networkinfrastructure is usually based on the IP (internetprotocol) standard but is comprised of equipmentfrom a range of suppliers. Within an organisation,any facility, indeed any individual, can be permittedto connect to the internal network with ease, usingwidely available public internet and mobilenetwork services. Network access is now pervasiveand the predicted on-going growth of trafficvolumes on both public and private networks(managed IP) speaks for itself (Figure 1).In the early days of such widespread access, which can be dated back to the mid-1990s, the principle concern, whenit came to gauging the user experience, was availability. Network communications failure may be rarer than it usedto be but it is still the most common reason that applications fail to deliver (Figure 2). However, there are two otherissues which have sometimes been paid less attention; network performance and security. As we enter the age of 100 gigabit/second Ethernet and 100megabit/second broadband, why are users stillwasting time staring at devices waiting for aresponse? They find this even more galling giventhat many will be used to seamless high speednetwork services being delivered to their ownhomes; individuals are often better served asconsumers than they are as employees.Furthermore, the number of incidents of networksecurity breaches being reported has beenincreasing rapidly.The reason user experience degrades is notnecessarily because businesses have under-invested in their networks in the first place, butbecause the demands on them have been growingso fast that performance degrades over time simply    Don’t forget the network    © Quocirca 2011 - 4 - through standing still. This is further impacted by ad hoc additions to networks, for example wireless routers; if unplanned these not only extend network access in an uncontrolled way, but increase the security risk.To maximise the user experience, constant network monitoring is needed to ensure that all network ports are usedto the full and that every last drop of available bandwidth is consumed before more capacity is purchased.Furthermore, when network traffic increases, and the reasons for this are understood (and accepted), upgrades canbe planned rather than implemented in a hurry whilst fire-fighting. The network needs to be managed as a business-critical asset and its potential as a corporate business continuity and security risk understood and controlled.Meanwhile, users should be able to take the network for granted, like they do utilities such as water and electricity  – despite the complex infrastructure that ensures their delivery. Only when this is the case can an IT departmentconsider itself to be effectively supporting its users. Many organisations struggle to achieve this Holy Grail becausethey lack the time, resources, tools and/or skills to do so. The rise and rise of the app(lication)   There are two forces that generate the growing demands on the network; the business itself and its employees. Thebusiness is relying on the network more and more to underpin business processes and is deploying bandwidth-hungry applications that make use of video and other network-intensive services. Furthermore, the availably of cloud-based services means lines-of-business can invoke and pay for IT services and applications directly, withoutreference to the IT department.This is exacerbated by the employees themselves,who use network services in ever more imaginativeways to do their jobs and, it must be said, to bringtheir personal lives to work. This will often includepeer-to-peer applications that also make use of voiceand video. They may be doing this from mobiledevices, sometimes owned by the business, butincreasingly they are using their own (Figure 3).There is a quid quo pro here; many employers wanttheir employees to take their working lives homewith them too  – further increasing demand onnetwork services.When considering overall access needs, businessesare now dealing with requirements that must mixpublic and private network services seamlessly andsecurely. Gone are the days of reasonably predictable client-server data flows and bandwidth demands.Even though the imposition of many of these high-bandwidth multimedia applications, on top of the moretraditional IT requirements, is often beyond the control of the IT department, the network is still expected to cope.At the same time, the IT department is expected to guarantee the performance of services such as IP-telephony,web/video conferencing, unified communications packages (UC), customer and partner web portals,document/image management systems etc. There is also the increasing use of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI),which is very network-reliant as the actual processing of user activity is carried out in data centres remote from a user’s access device (some see VDI as the best way to support the use of employee-owned devices).IT departments are also loading the network beyond its planned operating capabilities with their efforts to improvethe use of data centre resources through virtualisation. This allows them to rapidly increase the number of virtualservers running on individual physical devices, often without taking into consideration the extra burden this placeson the network through increasing the network input/output and bandwidth required for each physical server.Furthermore, in many areas businesses are forsaking the data centre altogether and turning to cloud-based services
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