Planning a campus network upgrade used to be relatively straightforward. Network architects had a few decisions to make based on throughput, latency, redundancy, and growth of users and devices. Choosing what network hardware and software to use ultimately came down to vendor preference and price. Very little thought was put into how and where users access data or what types of data and applications are accessed.
Today, technology has advanced to the point where far less thought goes into network capacity and redundancy when planning an upgrade for a campus network. Instead, the focus has shifted to users and application resources, where they are located, and how to deliver application resources as efficiently as possible. Here are five tips you can use when making campus network upgrade decisions.
1. Accommodate changing data flows
As more apps and data migrate into public cloud service provider networks, data flows are changing. On legacy networks, most data flowed from end-user devices residing at the access layer into a private data center server block. These intra-network flows resided within a single campus LAN. Cloud computing changes these data flows from intra- to inter-network paths. This shift has caused many legacy networks to experience bottlenecks in unexpected areas. Modern network architectures must be designed so they can scale well for both data flow pattern types.
2. Rethink remote-access VPN
The shift toward public cloud resources also means a remote-access VPN directly into the corporate network may no longer make sense. This is because most resources may reside in remote clouds and not on the campus network. Instead, remote access should be reworked to provide the necessary authentication and authorization without having to hairpin traffic flows unnecessarily back to the corporate network.
In some cases, the right choice would be to simply move the VPN termination location for more efficient centralized remote access. In others, it may be better to decentralize access to company apps and data across the many IaaS, PaaS and SaaS provider networks. This would involve multiple points of access to various cloud provider networks. However, authentication and admission rights could be architected in such a way that administration of users and permissions remain centralized.
As more workforces become telecommuters, providing an efficient remote-access platform is an important feature for users.
3. Plan for continued increase in WiFi usage
Category 5 and 6 wired Ethernet used to be the primary form of user access in the campus network. Yet today, network administrators are discovering that more devices connect using wireless compared to wired. Likely adding to the numbers is an increase in Internet of things (IoT) sensors that often connect via WiFi. This means that wireless networks are more important than ever. Thus, proper care should be put into designing campus WiFi to meet growing demands including capacity, throughput, and redundancy.
4. Implement monitoring and automation
Due to an uptick in complexity of modern networks that operate at higher layers within the OSI model, visibility into layer 7 data flows is becoming increasingly important. When planning for your new network, be sure that you have the necessary network performance monitoring tools in place to help you quickly identify and resolve application-specific problems in a short amount of time. These tools help identify common problems so they can be easily resolved using proactive automation techniques.
5. Plan for new technologies
Even if your organization isn’t ready for cutting-edge technologies such as SDN and intent-based networking (IBN) on your campus LAN, you can at least try to plan for the eventual adoption of such technologies. Network vendors are helping with the transition by offering campus LAN hardware that can operate as traditional routers/switches while also allowing administrators to enable SDN or IBN features when they are ready. It’s a great way to future-proof your investment today while giving you time to adopt the latest technologies.