Networks, especially multi-site networks, have become more and more complicated in recent times. Back in the day, they carried data, and that was about it. Today they carry data, multimedia, voice, access control and security data, fire control data, and perhaps some specialized data for alarm controls. Network Performance is a hot potato.
Managing Network Performance used to be mostly a manual task, but today it is almost impossible to manage a network without some tools.
How can you make your Network more manageable to optimize Network Performance:
Implement a Leaf and Spine Network Architecture
Traditionally, networks have been structured on a three-layer model: core, distribution, and access layers.
This structure ensures that the number of devices data travels between the end-user and its ultimate network destination is variable, depending on destination. This can affect service levels, the travel time depending on the route taken, and network congestion. It makes the definition of alternate routes difficult. Spanning Tree technology attempts to make sense of complex networks with multiple connections between devices, but it is difficult to install and manage.
A Leaf and Spine structure, physically similar to the three-layer model, ensures that the journey from any point on the network to any other point passes through the same number of network nodes. It improves the quality of service and automatically provides alternate routes should one be congested or unavailable.
This type of structure is already implemented in WiFi Mesh environments.
Use Software Defined and Intent-based Network Management Software
Cost pressures dictate that most organizations need a network that has a minimum of manual intervention in both installation and management. A Software Defined Access (SDA) network goes a long way towards that environment.
SDA is the first step on the way towards an Intent-Based network (IBN). An SDA is a self-configuring, self-learning, self-healing network. An IBN is true automation, an SDA that learns, adapts, and evolves by itself. IBN is only in the later stages of development, and major manufacturers are working closely with Universities and Research Centres to bring it to commercial reality.
Software Defined Access splits the network into two levels or planes – the physical level of equipment, and the software level that sits over the physical level and defines what the network looks like and how it operates. In essence, the network configures itself as the equipment is added to it.
That then allows defining and managing the network from a central point using software rather than configuring individual bits of equipment. This makes deployment and management of the network more straightforward and less resource-intensive. It is, therefore, cheaper and more effective.
It is a new technology, and major IT companies, including Cisco, are fully embracing it, seeing it as a means of smoothly introducing new technologies into an existing environment. An ideal setting for coalescing cabled and WiFi environments and introducing the Internet of Things and BYOD.
Optimize Network Administration and Maintenance
Network admin includes keeping an inventory of network resources and equipment. The equipment can consist of cables, hubs, routers, servers, and other network-connected edge devices like desktop computers.
Assuming you are not in an SDA environment, the main activity is setting up networks and subnets, VPNs, monitoring network performance, and updating and troubleshooting software.
Maintenance is the management of network devices, their repair, and replacement. It also covers network software, updating and patching, especially the anti-malware engine and signature files.
A final activity is provisioning. The provisioning task is sourcing, allocating, and configuring network resources to meet the organization’s needs. The network administrator works to provide resources to meet the growing and changing needs of the business.
As discussed above, this needs the installation of network management support tools like Solar Winds. It cannot be carried out manually.
Focus on Network Security
In today’s environment, network security is of paramount importance. Malware attacks are becoming more frequent, more vicious and utilize new attack vectors. It is often seen as a separate activity that monitors network security appliances and software, but it needs to be seen as part of the overall network environment.
Network security involves the installation and maintenance of network protection software, including anti-malware, and hardware appliancies. Other tasks best supported by software tools include monitoring IP and network behavior, tracking endpoint devices, seeing what end-users are up to, and resolving any security issues.
Provide Comprehensive Education and Training
It is all very well trying to offload as much as possible of network support and maintenance to software tools, but any large IT network installation will need warm bodies to do those things that software cannot currently do. Perhaps in time, AI will replace many of those tasks, as in SDA networks today, and IBN networks coming.
Education and training are vital to having staff on site to maximize network performance and manage those problems that arise from time to time. A final recommendation is to keep all your staff up to date with the latest networking and network security developments.