As is the case in business and technology, priorities are always shifting within the data center networking community. At one point, the top priority was scale. In 2022, when a reliable network is foundational to every business, the top priority has become uptime.
The numbers speak for themselves: According to IDC, organizations averaged 69 hours per year of unplanned downtime across systems due to human error. And the cost of that downtime can be massive. Employee productivity, customer experience and industry reputation all take a massive hit when your network goes down. Because of this, it’s not surprising that 85 percent of organizations require an uptime minimum of 99.99 percent for their most important hardware and applications, according to ITIC.
At a time when so much of daily life relies on network connectivity, no one can afford long periods of downtime.
Here are three ways to ensure that your data center network is reliable and always accessible to the end users.
Intent-based network design for day 2+ operations
Network lifecycle management has gotten more sophisticated and more important over the past few years – and for good reason. One of the most effective ways to avoid errors on Day 2+ is to do things correctly from the beginning by properly designing and provisioning on Day 0 and Day 1.
New tools are making this process easier. Today, the most forward-thinking network design tools are allowing network managers to model out their fabric before configuring it. The result: intention is built in, and network managers know exactly how things are supposed to work.
When network managers have meaningful insights and a deep understanding of how their fabric operates, they can spot deviations – malicious or otherwise – that make their way into their networks and troubleshoot them more efficiently. However, it goes even deeper. While pre-change analysis prevents errors from being pushed out, it’s also important to be able to easily roll back changes after they’ve gone live to allow for a greater degree of adaptability in long-term network operation.
Preventing Configuration Errors in a Multivendor Environment
When it comes to networks, even small misconfigurations can have a major impact, creating vulnerabilities to anything from denial-of-service attacks to ransomware.
Unfortunately, small errors have become more common over time. Part of the reason is the sheer number of software-defined networking (SDN) solutions on the market today. Furthermore, virtually all these solutions only work on the vendor’s own hardware. To make the problem more complex, none of these tools operate in the exact same way, creating a steep learning curve since it is unlikely that any one network operator understands them equally well. Even if someone does, the team is back to square one if that person leaves.
Being locked into a single vendor is both expensive and inefficient, so choosing software solutions that have multivendor support is increasingly important. A solution that leverages templated mechanisms to deploy your network fabric is critical to being able to dramatically reduce error rates, scale the network and build rock star teams that can maintain uptime, regardless of the hardware equipment.
Embracing predictive insights to spot errors
Handling network errors is a lot easier if you can see them coming. This is the promise of predictive insights, an area that’s seen incredible progress over the past few years. Machine learning, combined with telemetry and advanced algorithms, is giving network teams real-time data and actionable intelligence that allows them to both predict where issues might emerge and rapidly respond to them when they do.
This represents a major change in how teams approach service delivery. Instead of having to guess how a service is performing, or react to problems only after they arise, network teams now have the power to know and fix issues before they impact the business.
This approach has only become more important in the current environment. Increased data traffic, combined with an ever-increasing number of end points and emerging technologies, has made it harder than ever to monitor networks and troubleshoot. And we know from the data that, when end users detect these issues, they rarely report them. Over 95 percent just walk away, according to one survey. Automating the detection and resolution of problems gives IT teams a much better chance of solving issues quickly and effectively.
No time for downtime
When running a critical business, downtime is not an option. In the current environment, every network team needs to think beyond building fast networks; instead, they need to think about building reliable ones.
The costs here are too great to ignore. At a time when remote work has become the norm, organizations are putting more trust that their networks will remain up. Now is not the time for networks to let them down.