Here are some considerations to ensure your network is stable, secure and built to last as you overlay new services and applications.
ECS works with many clients on their network architectures, designs and configurations. We also work with clients when they have network issues and need troubleshooting assistance. Based on many years of experience with a variety of environments and customers, we have developed a list of considerations for network design.
Following these considerations can help you create and maintain a stable, long-lasting network infrastructure. When you need to design for wireless, prepare for software-defined networking (SDN) or simply expand your virtualized environment, following these considerations will increase the stability, manageability and security of your network.
KNOW, Don’t Guess: Two phrases uttered frequently during network design are “I’m pretty sure” and “I think.” As a professional tasked with discovering, researching and documenting end-user’s networks, those phrases don’t cut it for us, and they shouldn’t be acceptable to you. There’s more than a 50% chance what you think is wrong.
AVOID Dangling Networks: As SDN, virtualization and application-based technologies are added into our networks, we need to take a look at our configuration and prepare for cleanup. We suggest avoiding dangling and mismatched networks and VLANs throughout your infrastructure. It’s not unusual to see VLANs tagged where they should be untagged, or a VLAN dead end into an untagged VLAN. There are some instances of think-outside-the-box moments where a configuration like this is needed, either for a transition period or to work around a specific situation, but the practice should be the exception, not the rule.
ROUTE WHEREVER NEEDED, NOT Wherever Possible: Routing at the edge sounds like an advanced approach to network architecture, but it can cause more problems than it solves. You may get some additional speed, but in most networks, that speed will never be measurable, and the complexities of overly distributed routing lead to management and security headaches.
SEE it All, MANAGE it All: You can’t manage what you can’t see. Visibility into the network has always been important, and it’s going to be even more critical as networks evolve to solve the demands of virtualization and applications. You need to know what you have, where it is, and monitor it constantly.
Know When To STANDARDIZE: There are many times when standardizing offers great advantages, and other times when it will be contradictory to your objectives. This might mean standardizing on a single vendor for interoperability, or it may mean standardizing on configurations, security settings and management. In any case, make sure your choice is serving a purpose and providing flexibility as your network grows in the future. Don’t get talked in to a single-vendor solution when the costs outweigh the benefits, and don’t miss opportunities to standardize on platforms that can increase effectiveness of management and security.
Layer 1 Is CRITICAL: Your new infrastructure of VLANs and virtual devices is worthless if the foundation of your network is faulty. Layer 1 is Critical, and disruptions in Layer 1 contribute to a large volume of network outages. As network capabilities evolve and grow, Layer 1 requirements will remain the most critical consideration.
SIMPLE Always Wins: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Labs and test environments are the place to play and try your configurations. In an enterprise production environment, you’re best served keeping your network as simple as it can be while maintaining the required connectivity and security.
POWER Is VERY Important: We’ve been spoiled for a long time with our power sources which may seem strange, but it’s true. As power demands increase with newer technology, availability and consistency of power is more critical than ever. The addition of virtualized machines and software-based appliances that are more sensitive to power issues exaggerates the problem. Many times, power issues can cause widespread network disruptions without ever triggering an alert. Clean, conditioned, consistent power used to be a luxury, but is now a necessity in the network.
DOCUMENT: Maintaining documentation on your network is the easiest way to ensure that you can track changes and create the means to troubleshoot effectively. As you add on more technology and applications, documentation will increase in importance. 30 minutes now, may save you many hours down the road.