• 01/04/2018
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A Networking To-Do List for 2018

Get up to speed on SD-WAN, cloud connectivity, and network automation.

It’s that time of year for predictions, but I won’t join the crowd in offering a crystal ball. It’s too difficult to make specific predictions such as who Cisco may try to buy or which software-defined WAN vendor will get acquired next. Besides, who needs another list of predictions? Instead, I'll discuss major networking trends that are impacting the enterprise in order to help you plan your infrastructure and potential training in 2018.

Don’t hop on the SD-WAN bandwagon until you know your goals. Do you want to lower your MPLS costs? Or do you want to control remote branch offices in a zero-touch manner and reduce deployment and maintenance expenses? Understand what is important for your WAN, and then choose a vendor and architecture.

Many products offer some type of hybrid WAN networking that reduces bandwidth costs, but not all offer ease of remote deployment, service chaining or application-based traffic steering. Knowing what matters to you will help choose a vendor, and in WAN budget planning.

Network automation
A recent ESG survey asked networking pros, “What best represents your organization’s definition of software-defined networking?” Automation and programmability were the top responses, followed by using a controller or network overlays. While enterprises have been slow to implement SDN, automation is an aspect of it and networking pros should prepare.


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(Image: TeroVesalainen/Pixabay)

For some, getting trained on network automation requires learning scripting like Python, or using high-level tools such as intent-based networking tools. For others, it may be learning to use a network controller manually or an off-the-shelf system that automatically applies networking policies. Find out why your organization wants to make a journey into SDN, and see what type of automation makes sense.

Networking and the cloud
Understand how the cloud affects your network. The cloud is changing IT infrastructure rapidly, and many IT organizations are struggling to keep up. Figure out how to best manage traffic between your on-premises data centers to the cloud, or between your cloud instances, or between cloud instances and other SaaS services. If you need low latency between your data center workloads and public clouds, you may need to re-architect your network, perhaps using direct connections to a cloud provider.

Major cloud providers and third-party providers offer many services with varying degrees of performance, egress costs, security, and ease of management. SD-WAN helps with branch connections to the cloud and how branch routers pass traffic.

I recommend learning about these options quickly because if the networking team cannot offer good recommendations, end users might deploy cloud services on their own, and the IT organization may suffer from unintended consequences such as surprises in billing.

Network visibility in the cloud
IT pros are accustomed to getting workload and network visibility on-premises by deploying appliances to report on traffic performance. Public cloud complicates visibility since IT organizations rely on the cloud provider’s hardware and software infrastructure. However, this doesn't mean you must rely solely on the cloud provider's performance reports. Tools that are designed to provide network visibility in the cloud are starting to appear on the market, offering some familiar management and reporting capabilities.

SD-WAN, automation, and the cloud are here to stay, so getting up to speed on these trends will pay off for networking pros. Neglecting them may lead to loss of control over the infrastructure

Get live advice on networking, storage, and data center technologies to build the foundation to support software-driven IT and the cloud. Attend the Infrastructure Track at Interop ITX, April 30-May 4, 2018. Register now!


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