Major Challenges in Network Design

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 Major Challenges in Network Design  





There are many aspects to network design, all of which present unique challenges. From a business perspective, planning and executing an effective network strategy requires a substantial ongoing organizational commitment. The organization must be committed to developing an infrastructure that facilitates communication of the business objectives to the network planning team. The organization must also develop internal standards, methods, and procedures to promote effective planning. A commitment to do things the “right” way means adhering to the standardized processes and procedures even when there are substantial pressures to take risky shortcuts.

The organization should strive to hire, train, and retain skilled managers and staff who understand technology and how it can be used to satisfy organizational objectives. This is not easy, given the highly competitive job market for network specialists, and the rapid proliferation of new networking technologies. During the planning process, potentially serious political and organizational issues should be identified. For instance, people may feel threatened if they believe that the proposed network will compromise their power or influence. Consequently, they may attempt to hinder the project’s progress. The organization must confront these fears and develop strategies for dealing with them.

In addition to organizational challenges, numerous technical challenges must be faced when designing a network. Perhaps the foremost challenge is the sheer multiplicity of options that must be considered. Added to this is the fact that current networks continue to grow in size, scope, and complexity. On top of this, the networking options available are in a constant state of flux. Keeping abreast of new developments and relating them to organizational requirements is a formidable task, and it is rare that an organization will have all the in-house expertise that it needs to do this well.

Often consultants and outside vendors are needed to help plan and implement the network. It is much easier to manage the activities of the consultants if the organization has a firm grip on the business objectives and requirements. However, sometimes consultants are needed to help develop and specify the business objectives and requirements. Although outside consultants offer benefits such as expertise and objectivity, they also present their own set of challenges. For instance, it is important to develop a “technology transfer” plan when working with outside consultants, to make sure that in-house staff can carry on as needed after the consultant leaves.

Through the 1970s and 1980s, if you wanted a network, you could call IBM and they would design your network. It was a common adage that “the only risk is not buying IBM.” However, for the foreseeable future, there will be increasing numbers of network vendors in the marketplace and a decreasing likelihood that any one vendor will satisfy all of the organization’s network requirements. While often unavoidable, using multiple vendors can pose problems, particularly when there are problems with the network implementation and each vendor is pointing a finger at the other. Since it is increasingly likely that a particular network vendor will provide only a part of the network solution, it is incumbent on the network design team to make sure that the global network requirements are addressed.

In short, the sheer volume, complexity, and pace of change in technology complicate the already formidable task of network design. Strategies for meeting these challenges are dictated by common sense and good management principles. We briefly summarize some of these strategies below:

  Develop methods for hiring and retaining good staff.
  Where necessary, augment existing staff with consultants and vendor support.
  Use training and internal communication to reduce the fears of those affected by the network.
  Encourage and offer ongoing education to help staff remain current with new trends in technology.
  A voluminous amount of technical information is available from a variety of such sources as vendor/telco/consultant presentations, conferences, technical books and magazines, and the Internet. Turn to these sources on a regular basis to help keep up with new developments in the industry.




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