Cloud Infrastructure

06:00 AM
Mitch Simcoe
Mitch Simcoe
Commentary
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Next-Gen WAN: Build or Buy?

Enterprises need to consider a number of factors, including security requirements, when choosing between an in-house model or managed network service for their future WAN connectivity needs.

Enterprises today need WAN connectivity that can support their growing cloud and virtualization efforts. There are two main business models to choose from: A build-your-own network model based on dark fiber and the use of carrier-grade packet-optical technology, or a managed private network service that is outsourced to a service provider.

To decide which option to pursue, enterprises must carefully analyze the two deployment models against a well-defined list of capabilities that can best address their company’s long-term goals and needs. They also need to establish clear objectives for how to allocate operational and capital expenses for these initiatives going forward. In the final analysis, this may not be an either/or decision as many organizations have both models running concurrently. Here are some key factors to consider when weighing your options:

The network has to be flexible. The traditional datacenter, defined by its hardware and devices, has transformed into a cloud-based, on-demand IT infrastructure. In the past, WAN connections were static, but with cloud computing, they become much more dynamic. In today's cloud era, when enterprise bandwidth changes, WAN end points change locations. This accelerates the need for flexibility as enterprises expand their networks dynamically to support new customers and growing operations.

Speed to deployment is critical. Business demands are changing, and infrastructure must be able to adapt quickly to meet changing conditions. For those seeking to build, there are considerations that must be taken into account, for example: How quickly can internal IT resources ramp-up the required skill sets to manage a private packet-optical network? And are shelves, ports, wavelengths, or fiber available to quickly add new capacity? If the answer to these questions is no, leveraging a managed service provider might be the appropriate alternative -- just find out how quickly the provider can adjust the SLA to accommodate change.

Growth requirements. For constant, long-term growth, building a network is appealing. First,identify mission-critical applications, their required connectivity and their corresponding protocols, bandwidth, and latency requirements. Then, consider their redundancy and disaster recovery conditions. If growth is uncertain, a managed service might be more appealing because it provides the flexibility to prevent lock-in with a specific vendor or solution, and its packet-optical infrastructure can evolve, avoiding technology obsolescence. Also, managed service contracts typically last one to five years, allowing enterprises to change solutions based on new requirements.

Core IT competencies. As networks become increasingly complex, should IT resources be focused on meeting customer needs, or developing skills sets to handle internal projects such as a private network? Each enterprise must determine how much to invest in IT staff. For enterprises with sufficient resources, a build model will require IT skills that specifically target the needs of building and maintaining a core network WAN infrastructure, while the buy model frees up resources since most infrastructure management is handled by the service provider.

Datacenter needs vary. Enterprises must have the ability to support a multi-datacenter environment and foster interaction with the cloud. Their communications infrastructures must be cost-effective for smaller, regional data centers with the ability to scale during rapid growth or reductions, and be able to support new applications while offering connectivity to external partners, customers, and suppliers via the cloud. Having confidence in the long-term location of datacenters is a necessity when implementing a private network. Enterprises with a heavier reliance on multi-tenant datacenters and cloud infrastructure will want a more flexible managed service network that can quickly change as the datacenter market changes.

Future-proof investments. Today’s infrastructure should meet tomorrow’s needs.Packet-optical technology capabilities are accelerating at a rapid rate. While 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) in the LAN is migrating into the WAN, core networking is moving to 100GbE. A private network enables enterprises to quickly implement the latest technology, while service providers generally take longer to adopt new technology. When doing it alone, managing the evolution of software-defined networking (SDN) -- a key element offering investment and flexibility protection -- must also be taken into account.

Upgrade planning. Does the IT department have the time and resources to deploy the latest functionality from vendors in their networks? With a built-in network, the enterprise may have spare ports or boards available that can be used for this purpose, while a managed service provider might require a whole new contract when it comes time to upgrade.

Security requirements. If security is of paramount importance for an enterprise IT network, a private network over a dedicated infrastructure may be the only choice to ensure the highest level of network security. For enterprises that do not have the staff and resources available to focus on security, a managed service provider should be considered, preferably one that maintains an optical virtual private network (O-VPN model) to provide necessary customer segregation and security. A third "hybrid" option exists in which the enterprise owns the equipment, while the fiber and the management are owned by the service provider.

Who controls the network? When building a network, the enterprise has total control and can purchase and develop features and capabilities as needs arise, but this also requires a dedicated staff to handle the increased complexity of communications architectures. Managed service providers, on the other hand, rely on customer portals with graphical management interfaces that allow IT/datacenter managers to view SLA performance in real time and quickly provision new services on their network. The downside is that customers may not have the ability to influence how design decisions are carried out.

Capex and opex analysis. Before making a build or buy decision, enterprises need to have a full understanding of their financial status. Are they projecting significant growth for the long term and have the cash for capex? Is there some uncertainty regarding growth over time?  Those in the first situation may lean towards a private network build, which could provide financial benefits over the long haul, but does necessitate having the expertise to manage the network. Those with capex limitations might instead lease a network through a managed service provider and pay a regular monthly expense. Though this may cost more in the long run, there are significant savings in opex by outsourcing the management and skills to a service provider vs. taking it on in-house.

Mitch Simcoe is an industry veteran with more than 25 years of telecommunications industry experience and a director at Ciena, where he is responsible for promoting Ciena's packet optical solutions for metro-regional networks.  Prior to joining Ciena, Mitch was director ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
MarciaNWC
50%
50%
MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
6/2/2014 | 12:00:15 PM
Re: Cutting Edge vs. Bleeding Edge
Good points AbeG. Yes, perhaps it's a bit of both, in the end. It seems that depending on business requirements, some functions might be perfectly suitable for the build model while others are best outsourced.
AbeG
50%
50%
AbeG,
User Rank: Black Belt
5/30/2014 | 11:06:11 PM
Cutting Edge vs. Bleeding Edge
I'd say that those who wish to be in the bleeding edge of technology are better off with a buy model. 

When unforeseen issues arise in the use of bleeding edge technology, it is best to be in the care of those who are closest to that technology's design and development.  Oftentimes, new patches, fixes, and documentation take a while before it is released to the general public.  Thos who are closest to the design and development are more likely to have early access to such resources.  However, this level premium support is often expensive.

When it comes to cutting edge technology, the decision to build vs. buy can still be somewhat up for debate.  The question comes down to who can be more efficient and cost-effective at reaching the desired balance between price and performance?  The answer is not always clear, but a compromise may be a approriate.  One can always do a bit of both.
MitchSim
50%
50%
MitchSim,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/29/2014 | 9:06:08 PM
Re: SDN
Thanks for your question.

The considerations for deploying SDN are similar to that of a deploying a packet-optical WAN with the caveat that SDN technology and standards are still evolving with greater deployment/evolution risk to the enterprise.

So the considerations in the article still apply: 

-          Is speed to market critical? If Yes then

o   Does the enterprise have the internal IT competencies, upfront capital and willing to assume the technology risks of deploying SDN?

    If Yes, then private build is the way to go

    If No, then a managed service approach will de risk deploying SDN until such time     that the enterprise can address the above factors
MarciaNWC
50%
50%
MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
5/28/2014 | 3:44:20 PM
SDN
Thanks for this guidance Mitch. Can you elaborate on the considerations for SDN when going with a build model?

 
Hot Topics
11
Fall IT Events: On The Road Again With 10 Top Picks
James M. Connolly, Editor in Chief, The Enterprise Cloud Site,  7/29/2014
3
25 GbE: A Big Deal That Will Arrive
Greg Ferro, Network Architect & Blogger,  7/29/2014
3
Cisco Ships APIC Controller, Reveals ACI Pricing
Marcia Savage, Managing Editor, Network Computing,  7/29/2014
White Papers
Register for Network Computing Newsletters
Cartoon
Current Issue
2014 Private Cloud Survey
2014 Private Cloud Survey
Respondents are on a roll: 53% brought their private clouds from concept to production in less than one year, and 60% ­extend their clouds across multiple datacenters. But expertise is scarce, with 51% saying acquiring skilled employees is a roadblock.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed