“Networking is an investment in your business. It takes time and when done correctly can yield great results for years to come.” – Diane Helbig
Network design is a crucial topic and all of us are aware of it. Companies rely on networking right from their core. Mobility is the key to the owners, stakeholders, vendors, partners and most importantly the customer. Today’s businesses run on computer networks and thus, network forms the backbone of everything. It’s a skeleton of any architecture. Network design should be such that it supports the company right from it’s beginning till the end. During their life cycle companies grow and shrink due to various reasons, and this has greater impact on network management. We can classify the causes as below:-
- Organic growth/decline
- Mergers, acquisitions or divestment
Organic growth or decline
Organic growth or decline happen through company’s normal business activities. Such change happens gradually and unless you keep an eye on this, the network requirement may seem to have changed overnight. Companies add users or application which increase the network usage and overall load on bandwidth. You don’t want to give network load as a reason of not being able to achieve a target, ever. That would come across as immature. Proactive network monitoring needs to happen in order to alert network management about the growing needs. Similarly, such networking requirement may change when company adds or removes sites. It also depends on how these networking requirements are met in network design. Simply adding more resources without a plan can be a recipe of disaster over time. This takes us to an important concept of Modularity. Modularity is a very important principle when doing network design. It addresses various concerns as below:
- User categorisation - in terms of authorisation of using a particular network resource.
- User mobility - number of remote connections
- Geographic consideration - involves ways to address latency issues.
- Clients and applications - number of connections made to various servers and the data transfer rates that is suitable for business.
While talking about above considerations, on a practical level there is people aspect which adds another angle of uncertainty and addressing it is equally important. As an example, it may happen that as part of networking solution to the organisation’s users - investment is made in providing certain service, but in BAU these services are hardly used as there is a better and less hectic workaround for the same.
Mergers/acquisitions and divestment of a company are classified as inorganic growth. When two companies merge, one is the acquiring side and other is the company being acquired. In this case, the IT infra of the company being acquired is merged into the parent company. There is so much of complexity involved in this.
- Merger of data centres
- Provisioning of appropriate user access to appropriate network areas
- Shared application data
- Email exchanges
- IP address and masking disparity
…and the list goes on. In such cases Modularity plays a key role. In order to get the acquired company to the standards followed by acquiring company, measures should be taken. Pros and cons of both the side of networking principles should be assessed and leveraged accordingly if it makes sense. It’s not just these 2 companies, there is a myriad of auxiliary connections in the form of vendors, guests, 3rd party application users, proxy connections for which arrangement should be done and tested against the business principles. Modularity plays a key role in case of divestment, as segregation of network and users becomes pretty clear.
In all this, network design also has to rely on decision with regards to ‘this or that’ of below things.
- Centralised or Decentralised
- Cloud or Self-hosted
- PAAS or IAAS
- Outsourcing or In sourcing
Above considerations are to be made with thinking about designing a network for any business. Decisions depend on a lot of factors ranging from Security requirements till personal preferences - yes these matter a lot at times especially in case when a key stakeholder’s interest is as stake. These design decisions also span across all the phases of architecture development life cycle. The key is to get every stakeholder to an agreement on a specific network design by addressing their concerns in best possible way. Trade-offs are everywhere.