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Overhauling the network can be a daunting task. There are many potential pitfalls which can affect timescales and costs. In this blog, we share 10 key considerations for network transformation to make the process smooth and hassle free!
1. Profile your network estate
To accurately plan a transformation project of any scale, a detailed profile of each site, including their location, access / wayleave restrictions etc, should be drawn up.
This is crucial, as sites can be geographically remote or (particularly in government) highly secure, with limited opportunity for external engineering teams to access them. All of these factors could hinder project timescales and affect costs. Your chosen network provider will find it useful to understand which sites are deemed critical, and which (if any) are not, for prioritisation and accurate costing.
The more sites you have, regardless of their individual size and complexity, will contribute to a bigger transformation challenge. Consider the number of sites you have, and think about how site access, geography and other factors will affect the time taken to install a new network provision.
2. Security clearance and site access
If you’re working in a regulated or particularly security conscious sector, perhaps in police, health or government - those involved in the project, especially those on site, may need to be cleared to a minimum of SC level. In order to gain clearance, individuals need to be sponsored to a project, which takes time and admin overhead.
The more sites you have, the more people need clearance. This is achievable for the network provider with some advanced planning, but it should be factored into the project and cannot be overlooked.
Potential bottlenecks here could be third party providers such as Openreach. The business will need to make an early decision on the network and last mile approach, so that all supply chain providers can work ahead of time to get teams of engineers together - sponsored, cleared and scheduled to do the work.
3. Hardware shortages
There is still a global hardware shortage, which could affect delivery of network equipment. The shortages are not as acute as they were 6-12 months ago, but depending on the kit, there could still be 12-18 month lead times for delivery. You should not compromise on what is the right solution (even if it takes longer), compared to a solution with equipment you can source more readily.
Your organisation will need to allocate a delegation of people to work on the project alongside your chosen supplier(s). The faster the project needs to be, the earlier you will need to go to market for personnel located across the country. Going to market to attract and hire the right skills, and get each person cleared, will take time.
This resourcing challenge is the same for suppliers. They will need to make engineers available to work on your project too. Give them as much forewarning as you can.
5. Incumbent suppliers
If you’re switching to a new supplier, project timescales will be reliant on the incumbent company playing ball to allow for a smooth exit and transition for the contract. This, in our experience, is not always a guarantee. Carefully read your contract including all parties’ exit obligations, and be sure to hold your incumbent to account if they’re dragging their feet.
6. Commercials & terms
You should start thinking about how you want to procure your network, whether in pieces / tranches - or all at once. A single procurement contract would be simpler commercially, but depending on the life of the contract, and length of the project, may approach renewal before all sites are put live. Breaking the project into core deliverables, purchased separately, will result in multiple contracts, but could give you more control over the transformation as a whole.
7. Bandwidth & resilience
The required bandwidths for each tail site, and across the core network supporting it, will affect the hardware provision, timescales and cost.
It is often easier to assume that all sites will need to be resilient, but this may not be the case, and you could stand to save some time and money. Among the sites will be varying degrees of criticality. A single circuit may be sufficient for some BAU sites, for example. The internet may be sufficient elsewhere.
8. Security & transition
As the project gathers momentum, there is going to be a split network architecture for an extended period of time. Some services and databases will start to appear on the new network, whilst other workloads will remain on the old network, until it is their turn to be transitioned. There needs to be a bridging mechanism that can maintain secure connectivity between the legacy and new, ensuring no impact on live users, and consistent security posture for as long as is required.
9. Effective planning
In our experience, the only way to accurately estimate time and cost, for any project, is to analyse the current state of play, compare it to the aspirational state - and complete gap analysis - in that order. This is a fundamental piece of work that is often overlooked.
Current Mode of Operations (CMO)
Architectural review of the entire estate. All sites, data centres, third party connections. Understand how it integrates and interoperates. Get everything mapped, and profile / prioritise all sites in more detail.
Future Mode of Operations (FMO)
What good looks like. This is where requirements for the network, both near and long term, can be captured. Required capabilities, user flexibility, visibility, integrations into tooling, security policies and controls.
Identify the gaps between the CMO and FMO, and plot the journey from one to the other. Infrastructure needs to be in place for the life of the transition to support this process. We have illustrated how this could look from a WAN perspective below.
In many cases, organisations start at the FMO and do not invest the time and effort in completing a thorough CMO with gap analysis.
10. An example approach
One way to approach a WAN transformation is to prioritise and migrate core workloads first, before tail sites are migrated in priority order. This would not necessarily make the migration faster, but would be cleaner, structured, and give you more control, taking some of the leverage away from incumbent providers:
We do networks differently
Cloud Gateway was founded to deal with the technical and commercial bottlenecks that stifle digital transformation. We are bringing networking and secure connectivity into the digital age through cultural, commercial and technical innovation.
We work alongside you to design, build and deploy a bespoke solution that meets your needs right now, whilst laying a digital foundation for future transformation plans.
If you’d like to discuss this further with Cloud Gateway, we can be contacted here.
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