Ways to Recession-Proof your Network
- Datacom Systems, Inc.
- November 21, 2022
With rising interest rates, stock markets turning bearish, and inflation at its highest in 40 years at 8.3%*, it is no secret that we are heading into a recession. With the average recession since 1854 spanning 17 months, it is crucial for companies with large IT budgets that support expensive networking equipment and private data centers to get ahead of the curve and put in necessary practices in place to ensure they survive and thrive during this economic downturn. Below, we highlight a couple of ways to help you recession-proof your network.
Postpone Your Capital Expenditure (or greatly reduce it)
If network modernization is a substantial portion of your annual capital expenditure (capex) budget for the next year or two, then this article will show you how to preserve cash.
Unless the network has been running at an alarmingly high capacity (yellow flag) and the Operations teams (NoC, SoC, NetOps, DevOps) are stressed out about it (red flag), then, it is time for a network upgrade to stave off an otherwise avoidable network downtime.
Many network elements in addition to routers and switches are required to build a working network. Just as in software development, the core function is 20% of the total code (the other 80% of the code is for administrative safeguards e.g., ensure graceful failures, etc.), the same principle applies to networks. The routers and switches (the core function of the network) are only 20% of the network elements. The rest are functions that offer and manage services or functions that monitor the network to ensure up time or in other words enable graceful fail-overs of other functions due to operational errors, security breaches and many other reasons.
If you waited a long time to upgrade the speeds and feeds (switches and routers) of the network, then you have most likely done your research on what available in the market and you know about the technology that NEMs (Network Equipment Manufacturers) adopted in their products. If not, then here’s a summary of the technology migration path. There are three levels of merchant ASICs (chips you can buy off-the-shelf) that have been embedded in the NEMs products that made their way into today’s operational networks. They are as follows:
- ASICs supporting 1G and 10G speeds with dozens of 10G serdes (Serialized/Deserialized) lanes (as in the lanes of a highway; one or many lanes can be merged into a physical port in a network switch or router, e.g. Four 10G lanes make up a 40G port); This ASIC technology has been deployed in networks for the last 15 years. Many companies are satisfied with the stable performance of their network, and they don’t plan on adding new apps and/or new users.
*BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS. “CONSUMER PRICE INDEX DATABASE, ALL URBAN CONSUMERS.”
- ASICs supporting 25G SerDes lanes (they are really 28Gbps, but some bandwidth gets used in the internal error correction functions so the effective speed is closer to 25Gbps) were introduced by merchant ASIC vendors in the last 4 years or so. Customers may consider upgrading from 10G to 25G speed, or from 1G to 25G (e.g., from SFP/SFP+ to SFP28 transceivers). These ASICs made it into white label boxes that run COTS (Commodity Off-the-Shelf) units that are sold at a much lower price than custom hardware, for example, four 25G lanes make up a 100G port
- ASICs supporting 50G SerDes lanes (it is 56Gbps, but the effective rate is about 50G) and this is an even newer technology that are also mounted on COTS units. This allows the switch and router to support 200G ports and even 400G ports
Now, 80% of both hardware-based and software-based tools that monitor the network performance by analyzing the traffic (packet data; not the log data nor the flow data)** on the network. These tools are often referred to as monitoring tools or analytics tools and they are an integral part of the Network Visibility and Monitoring (NVM) ecosystem. This market or ecosystem consists of two parts, the Visibility Network, and the Monitoring Tools.
In most cases, the Visibility Network uses the same silicon (switch chips / merchant ASICs) used by the network switches and routers but modifies their DNA to transform them into TAPS (Test Access Points) and Packet Brokers. So, the network elements of the Visibility Network are known as TAPS, Packet Brokers, and also Bypass Switches. The visibility network mirrors the network packets but it derives its value from its ability to remove unnecessary data to allow the monitoring tools to operate at optimal efficiency.
Therefore, the monitoring tools, such as, Firewalls, Deep Packet Inspection Apps, Voice/Multimedia QoS and other quality of service measurements related to voice, media, financial transactions compliance, healthcare compliance, other streaming services QoS, broadcasting QoS, large file transfers integrity (HIPPA, et al), storage (zero packet loss for Legal reasons) and more. Most of these tools can remain as is.
First and foremost, upgrade the switches and routers from 1G/10G to 10G/40G or to 25G/100G. Second, upgrade the visibility network elements.
Hence, the total network upgrade Capex can be cut anywhere from 30% to 50% while all these monitoring tools can be upgraded later.
These five steps on how to do this and still keep your ops teams sane and happy:
** Analyzing packet data has proven to be the most effective method in establishing zero-trust network architectures
Upgrade your NVM network infrastructure only
Predictive maintenance is the process of monitoring network equipment to determine when maintenance should be performed. This strategy can help you save money in many ways, such as:
- Upgrade your Network Visibility and Monitoring (NVM) network infrastructure. MVN is the network that consists of TAPs, Network Packet Brokers. Their function is to build a network that houses all the tools in one central location (cloud) and switches the traffic-of-interest to the desired endpoint / tool
- These NVM networks can help you postpone your capex because they have ways to distribute the increased traffic load across your existing tools (load balancing features).
- In addition, they can generate metadata that is utilized by your security tools. Lastly, they can also store and replay traffic at line rate. At around 10% of the cost of the network upgrade capex budget, a future-proof NVM network can be deployed. It will extend the life of your tools another 2-5 years, depending on the rate of growth.
Load Balancing features
The most effective way to extend the life of your existing tools is by leveraging the various load balancing features found in the NVM network. This is the primary solution to Capex reduction. Eventually, the upgrade needs to take place but it will postpone the inevitable without compromising the quality of your service to your customers.
Metadata generation enriches existing tools
Increase area of coverage for security tools by adding more metadata generation endpoints. Monitoring the dark edges of the network will help you keep track of your operation, which will lead to early detection of anomalies, fewer failover accidents and longer uptime.
Bypass Switches work around unexpected tool failures
When you’re preparing for the unexpected, it’s important to make sure that your network and equipment are protected. This can be done by having the right bypass switches in place.
If a Data Center manager is at fault in an accidental power down, they may be held responsible for any damage they cause to their own network and other people’s networks. Another way to protect yourself is by having emergency funds set aside in case of an uninsured cyber-attack.
By planning ahead and anticipating potential problems before they arise, Data Center managers will also reduce their chances of being blindsided by sudden expenses that would otherwise derail their budgets or put them out of business entirely—especially during periods like these where uncertainty seems to reign supreme!
Finally: keep an eye on your finances throughout this period; don’t let them get out of control!
Add Store and Replay function on the NVM network
Store and Replay is a great Service Assurance tool. It is often used to generate incremental from customers that wish to be able to recall footage or raw data from yesterday, last week or even a whole year back. It stores raw data at line rate and replays it on demand. The usage history is used to predict when something will break down or to attempt to find the root cause of an anomaly in the network. This function, if it guarantees zero-packet loss, become legal evidence for the court of law, if needed. By scheduling over-write intervals, you can capture the traffic that caused an unscheduled downtime.
A Store-and-Replay system also helps identify network elements that aren’t following guidelines for best practices like over utilization or idling unnecessarily.
We hope that this article provided some insight on how to make your network more recession-proof. Scaling your network’s capacity at a lower Capex during tough economic times is an important factor in remaining competitive and profitable in the years ahead.