Virtualization?  Software Defined Data Centers?  Don’t let your Network slow you down!


Over the past several years there have been significant changes in data center architecture.  Recently momentum has built toward virtualization, cloud computing and Software-Defined Data Centers as evidenced by the pioneering work our Stability Alliance partner VertitechIT is doing in this area (VertitechIT SDDC).   As IT executives implement new data center strategies, it is important to consider network migration options. Any change to data center architecture will impact the way users connect.  Proactive network planning will help avoid project delays - and eliminate unnecessary cost.  There are three simple steps: 1.) Understand your current network 2.) Document future requirements and 3.) Develop a migration plan.   


Understand Your Current Network


Understanding where you are today can be easy if you have the right tools.  Basic network documentation is a critical, but often overlooked, aspect of good telecommunications management.  Documentation that details network services, cable plant and fiber availability is essential for a variety of planning and operational functions including business continuity and capacity planning.  At a minimum, documentation should include a visual representation of your network components, a spreadsheet with circuit IDs and locations and information detailing processes, procedures and key contacts. If your organization does not have good documentation, now is the time to make it a priority. In most cases, carrier billing portals will describe their services and provide circuit IDs.   Keeping your documentation up to date is an important part of network management.


Current contracts need to be reviewed to determine when services can be changed without penalty.  If you are under contract, consider how long it will take before you are ready for new services. Analyze your contracts and determine if early termination fees apply. These fees can be an essential part of contract strategy and negotiation.


Determine Future Network Requirements


When it comes to exploring the best options and ensuring the best possible rates, there is no better process than issuing an RFI (Request for Information) and/or RFP (Request for Proposal).  The RFI process will allow you to get familiar with current product offerings and architectural options to help determine which network is the best fit for your data center.  If you already have a specific product in mind, you can move on to the RFP process.  Either way, you must make sure you know your requirements in sufficient detail in order to obtain accurate pricing information from vendors.  The RFP process will yield better pricing and supplier attention.  Examples include incumbent carriers allowing upgrade of services without contract termination penalty. 


Develop a Network Migration plan


While there are many key elements to planning for network change, the most important one to consider is the amount of time it takes to implement a new network.  The lead time can be several months - or more! 


Successful projects start with a project plan. At a minimum, the plan includes the definition of the project, its objectives, critical success factors, key stakeholders, a budget and a schedule.  A successful network migration will include a well-defined project overview and list the objectives of the project in order to set proper expectations.  It is important to be very clear about the scope of the project in order to set expectations and manage “scope creep”.  It is also a good practice to identify any known risks associated with the migration and document how they will be handled should a problem arise. 


Once the plan is created, actively managing the project becomes the focus.    Regular reviews of progress will take place and need to be documented.  Milestones should be coordinated with management check point meetings to ensure that key stakeholders are kept up to date with the project.  Any scope changes must be evaluated for their impact to the budget and schedule and should be approved by the stake holders.  Be sure to resolve issues quickly in order keep the pace of the project on schedule.  


Aligning your network migration with data center requirements is important.  We find that the clients who do it most successfully allow sufficient time for planning.  They keep good documentation of their network services and are keenly aware of their contract end dates and any flexibility they have for making changes.  They also employ project management best practices to ensure that their project comes in on time and within budget.


While there are many key elements to planning for network change, the most important one is to consider the amount of time it takes to implement a new network.  For assistance with planning & implementing your next network changes, contact Partner Consulting!





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