December 31, 2008

The Mandate to Better Integrate Network Planning and Network Operations

  • A Webtorials Brief
  • Jim Metzler, Webtorials
It would be difficult to overstate the importance of network uptime and performance to the vast majority of organizations. On an ever-increasing basis, organizations run their key business processes over their network. As a result, if the network is not available or if it is not performing well, the organization's key business processes are severely impacted.

To ensure high availability, most IT organizations design their network with the goal of minimizing single points of failure on the end-to-end network paths. To accomplish this goal, IT organizations typically deploy redundant configurations of highly resilient network devices complimented by the use of fast fail-over protocols. Minimizing single points of failure clearly increases network availability. However, there is a larger issue that impacts network availability that many IT organizations avoid dealing with. A recently published white paper highlighted that issue when it pointed out a well-known fact. That fact is that between fifty and eighty percent of network outages are caused by human error. That document also explained one of the reasons why user error has such an impact on network availability when it stated that, "System complexity with multiple components and many types of interactions creates an environment where the relationship between actions and outcomes is not always obvious."

In order to truly have a highly available network, IT organizations need to take steps to reduce the human errors that occur when IT organizations make any kind of change to their network. One of the factors that make reducing the errors associated with change management so difficult is that historically there has been a significant gap between the IT professionals who are responsible for planning the network and the IT professionals who are responsible for the ongoing operations of the network. This gap has been perpetuated in part because the computational challenges associated with taking data from a "million points of light" in a network (devices, interfaces, endpoints, etc.) and calculating the effects of one or more changes on the performance of the overall network. Since these computational challenges are so daunting, the traditional solutions to this problem are large, complex, and static and also require volumes of information that typically are not easily available.

The goal of this brief is to present evidence that the gap between network planning and network operations is closing. As will be shown in this brief, one of the primary factors that is driving the closure is the deployment of tools such as route analytics that are being used by both the network planning and the network operations organizations.

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