Network Modernization: How Does Your Network Stack Up Against Best Practices?
By Phil Glinski, Specialist Sales Engineer
As new technologies help enterprises modernize their network and business model, refreshes become a business imperative. How can you properly assess what gaps remain in network connectivity and security across your distributed enterprise?
Where to Start When Your Network Can’t Keep Up
But for most organizations, modernization investments have focused primarily on the data center, and more recently, on cloud migration. The enterprise edge has remained largely neglected – network infrastructure is outdated, and security postures need critical improvements to effectively serve as the first line of defense and last line for redundancy for the entire enterprise, whether for the internet edge or the operational technology (OT) edge.
But for large, increasingly distributed enterprises, network edge and OT edge refreshes are time consuming and complicated from both an engineering and logistical standpoint. Network security grows increasingly complex at the same time: with new edge devices everywhere, with employees working anywhere, and with the shift to cloud connectivity and an increasing reliance on connected OT, the outdated hub-and-spoke network and security model now poses major risks.
When it comes to edge connectivity and security, enterprises are left with a whole host of technical debt. Many organizations are quite literally living on the edge – now is the time to modernize both connectivity and security in unison if they’re to keep up.
A large-scale network refresh that modernizes your network for edge and beyond is possible. And doing it right requires starting with an accurate IT network modernization assessment.
What Should a Network Modernization Assessment Look Like?
How can you measure your readiness for new technologies if you’re unsure of where your network stands? A modernization assessment can help you take comprehensive stock of all your IT and OT networking technologies and solve for gaps in any network visibility issues. It should measure your network against industry best practices, and also provide a roadmap that allows your network to grow and pivot with the needs of your business.
At AHEAD, a modernization assessment starts with a discovery workshop, where we gain a thorough understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your current architecture. Through independent discovery, we develop a comprehensive understanding of your network using well-known utilities and tools to gather more information, as well as perform an ‘End of Support’ analysis to determine which individual components of your network are unsupported or only partially supported by the OEM. A ‘Desired State’ workshop allows us to establish clear goals and objectives for gap analysis, designing IT roadmaps to help you refine your architecture and enact business goals quickly. We also help you develop an installation and deployment roadmap, which includes quantifiable tasks and realistic LOEs and SBs. The end result is a comprehensive redesign of your network architecture that can be quickly but meticulously implemented by our engineers.
Technology Considerations to Look for in an IT Network Assessment
Throughout all steps of our modernization assessment, it’s important to identify the architecture of enterprise networks and the security solutions within your organization’s campuses and compare them to industry best practices. A thorough modernization assessment takes stock of all your current technologies, including:
- Architecture – analyze the current state of your network architecture versus the best practices within your industry and best practices overall. Look at standardizing architecture across multiple campuses and optimizing workloads within a campus. It’s also critical to determine the maturity of your SD-WAN architecture if applicable.
- Segmentation – it’s vital to determine the security of your network. A proper assessment will both prevent the design drawbacks of a flat network and find instances of over-engineering that create vulnerabilities in the network, and create a roadmap that weaves proven zero trust methodologies into the fabric of the network architecture.
- Hardware Roadmap – it’s important to take a piece-by-piece look at your hardware service life. How many of your devices are soon to be end of support or end of life? Are there any rogue devices that threaten the security of your network? How can you plan for your next hardware refresh ahead of time? What sort of Lifecycle Management tools will you need for an enterprise network refresh deployment now and in the future? Regardless of your maturity level, we can guide and advise on these decisions to match OPEX and BU goals.
- Rack Elevation – what is in the MPOE – MDFs/IDFs and does it match the growth model? New equipment needs to be supported by its cabling, power, and cooling needs. Assessing the current state of these rooms and their connectivity on-site is critical. A networking partner that offers nationwide support can help large-scale efforts in this space.
- Operational Technology – you’ll want to create a complete inventory management of assets that directly drive profit. This might include PLCs, measuring instruments, industrial managed switches, engineering workstations, etc. Determine device attributes and activity and log usage over time to determine what abnormal traffic looks like and any vulnerabilities in the technologies. And with ransomware attacks on the rise, the OT/IT border means that OT needs to be secured from IT-based threats.
The Business Benefits of a Modernized Network
A network modernization assessment done right, and a network refresh implemented correctly yield huge business benefits through reduced OpEx spend. Standardization of your technologies for ease of management and use increases the productivity of your day-to-day operations and eliminates network inefficiencies. All business operations benefit from an overall reduction in outages. Security risks are mitigated when rogue applications or users are identified, and a fully modernized zero trust network offers proactive incident response that protects business-critical applications.
A modernized network also provides improved speed to market for new top-line capabilities. Dynamic routing simplification allows engineers to streamline network changes to match your business’ needs and growth model, and critical network devices remain redundant and ‘best-of-breed’ for maximum uptime and convergence.
Innovation in your organization hinges on the state of your network. Contact us to start a networking modernization assessment today.