It’s that time of year for New Years’ resolutions, and if you’re responsible for an enterprise network, there is no shortage of things to do. One place to start is to strengthen your weaknesses, by avoiding common worst practices.
Over the course of several thousand interactions with Gartner clients, we observe several oft-repeated “worst networking practices.” No organization sets out to create inefficient practices. In fact, these “worst practices” were often rooted in the best intentions, but have evolved incrementally and slowly over time, and are consequently difficult to self-diagnose. Or in other words, What’s Tactically Right Can Be Strategically Wrong. Along these lines, we just published research on the 10 most commonly observed networking “worst practices” (this is separate from the 12 worst network security best practices), including:
- Risk Aversion Stifles Innovation (aka because that’s the way we’ve always done it) – Note this is the polar opposite of “Shiny New Object Syndrome”
- Manual Network Changes (But the network is special)
- Limited Collaboration (Lets keep this under the radar)
- Technical Debt (Incrementalism)
- Outdated WAN architecture (MPLS or bust)
- Limited Network Visibility (We’re still trying to figure it out)
- Failure to Survey the WLAN (3 Bars is good enough)
- Taking Questionable Advice (But the VAR is my partner)
- Vendor Lockin (But this provides enhanced capability)
- WAN Waste (But the Carrier is my partner)
The research defines/describes the worst practice, includes common examples, identifies the impact, and specific actions to help curtail. Heres a snippet:
Taking Questionable (and Costly) Advice (AKA “The Vendor/Reseller is my friend”)
We often witness end users following biased advice of vendors and/or their associated channel partners (resellers, carriers and SIs). Vendor partner and resellers have strong ties to their technology providers, which leads them to propose solutions that best align with the vendor, rather than the buyer’s functional requirements. In some cases, this occurs when the client lacks sufficient expertise or time to make autonomous decisions. Specific examples of this include:
- The incumbent network equipment vendor offering to design the network for an upcoming project
- The incumbent network service provider/carrier performing the next-gen WAN design
- Network equipment vendor bundling security components into a non-security deal
- A reseller, who is associated with a specific vendor, makes the determination on design architecture or which vendor solution to use
- Service providers that identify savings, but redirect them to “innovation funds” that lead to unnecessary expenditures like professional services or readiness assessments
This leads to overspending, overbuilding and unnecessarily complex solutions, which ultimately leads to wasted operating expenditure (opex) and capital expenditure (capex), and can reduce availability. Gartner sees overbuilding leading to overspending by 25% to 50%, and in some cases this goes as high as 2-3X, versus “right-sized” solutions. Action: Organizations should treat networking vendors and service providers as suppliers, not partners. In addition, the following steps can be taken to ensure a cost-effective and right-sized solution:
- Push large and/or strategic purchases to RFI/RFP, and include sourcing/procurement teams early in this process.
- Don’t outsource network design. In instances where the network operations function is outsourced, ensure the architecture function is retained in-house.
- Obtain unbiased advice from at least one independent third party for large, long-term or strategic decisions.
- Request reference customers (preferably comparable in relative size and geographic distribution, and in your geographic area and vertical industry) from vendors before making any large or strategic investment.
- To stay abreast of current industry trends and best practices, network personnel should take part in user-centric events such as local user groups or vendor-independent trade shows.
You can check out the full research here: Avoid These “Bottom Ten” Networking Worst Practices, http://www.gartner.com/document/3174425
Summary: This research identifies ten common network “worst practices” that reduce availability, increase cost and/or delay service delivery. CIOs and senior infrastructure leaders should assume that some of these practices exist in their organizations and aim to mitigate or eliminate them.