Designing the Ultimate Network

Let's focus a little more on design independently before we get into joint design/implementation related blogs. There are many ways to go about designing a network, let alone the 'ultimate' network. Although methods may vary, the intent must not.

Network design has become more complicated than ever with the introduction of:

  • Private/Public Clouds 
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) 
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Hybrid Virtual/Physical Infrastructure 
  • Blended Hardware/Software Defined Networking (SDN) 

Most of us are asking the same types of questions:

  • How can I design it quickly?
  • How can I keep it simple?
  • How do I manage it?
  • How do I put it all together?
  • Which platforms should I choose?
  • What are the best practices?
  • How do I leverage what I already have in place?
  • How can I anticipate what the network might need to do in the future so I don't have to revisit my design and deployments?

Due to the many new innovations, some of which require a paradigm shift, it is critical that we don't lose sight of what really matters. The sole purpose of the network is to support the Business in achieving it goals:

  • Increasing revenue
  • Growing profit
  • Reducing both capital and operating costs
  • Expanding into new markets
  • Shortening development life cycles in order to introduce new products/services to market faster than the competition
  • Strengthening partnerships with ecosystem partners
  • Improving customer support and overall customer experience
  • Empowering employees with the right purpose, process and tools to drive greater efficiency and effectiveness
  • Enhancing communication capabilities

The network should be purposefully designed to support current and future application requirements. We don't have a clear view into the future, but we can follow trends to better understand what will be important as this will in turn empower us to make more informed investments allowing us to best prepare for current and future demands. User experience matters when it has a direct impact on levels of efficiency and effectiveness which result in lowered costs and increased profitability for the Business. One must consider how user groups, leveraging applications inside and outside of the private distributed corporate walls, access relevant data.

Many networks come into existence over time by focusing on one business project at a time or due to decisions being made based on perceived business constraints such as:

  • Lack of necessary budget
  • Limited staff or staff expertise
  • Conflicts in project scheduling and project dependencies
  • Layer 8 - Political environment and limiting policies

When designing the network it is important to set business constraints to the side up front and to focus specifically on what we are striving to achieve while never losing site of why this matters to the business. We can always come back to the design and challenge it with business constraints once we have a solid design and reference architecture documented. Approaching the design process in this way will allow us to determine what the Business is sacrificing by making potential changes and will enable us to discuss matters in a manner that is relevant.

In order to make the design opportunity or design challenge, depending on how you look at it, simpler, it is helpful to break the network down into smaller modules.

Data Center Core Campus Core Branch Core
Data Center Distribution Campus Distribution Branch Distribution
Data Center Access Campus Wired Access Branch Wired Access
Data Center Interconnect Campus Wireless Access  Branch Wireless Access
Data Center WAN Edge Campus WAN Edge Branch WAN Edge
Data Center Internet Edge Campus Internet Edge Branch Internet Edge
Data Center Remote Access
Data Center Services

Public Cloud IaaS
Public Cloud SaaS

As mentioned, start off with the 'ultimate' envisioned end state and then define the top 3 priorities for each module of the infrastructure:
  • Availability
  • Performance
  • Manageability
  • Flexibility/Adaptability
  • Scalability
  • Security
  • Affordability

Following the right design process and establishing success criteria early on will help us to minimize unexpected expenses, unplanned downtime and unforeseen complications. Although designing the 'ultimate' network might mean different things to different people or organizations, I am sure that there is some commonality in what we are striving to achieve and what the 'ultimate' end state will look like. Let's remember that physical hardware selection should not dictate logical design. Vendor innovations should be looked at as enablers of opportunities for operational impact and therefore these might give shape to the end to end design. Consider following one of the proven design methodlogies when designing the network:

Let's not forget to make our lives simpler by leveraging Cisco Validated Designs (CVDs) as our tested starting point. CVDs provide the foundation for systems design based on common use cases or current engineering system priorities. They incorporate a broad set of technologies, features, and applications to address customer needs. Each one has been comprehensively tested and documented by Cisco engineers to ensure faster, more reliable, and fully predictable deployment. 

Stay tuned for upcoming CVD breakdown blogs by module. Until then, have fun, learn all you can and look for ways to pay it forward.

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