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What does a network infrastructure upgrade project involve?

Explore the steps organizations must take to upgrade their network infrastructure, including how to tell if an upgrade is necessary and how to evaluate resources for the project.

Upgrading a production network requires vastly different processes compared to deploying a brand-new, greenfield network from design, implementation and ongoing management perspectives.

Let's explore five critical questions about network infrastructure upgrades that network teams must consider.

1. Why is a network infrastructure upgrade necessary?

Before starting any network infrastructure upgrade project, network teams must understand exactly why their network requires an upgrade in the first place. Depending on the answer, network architects may go about the project in exceedingly different ways.

For example, if the organization requires a network infrastructure upgrade because existing hardware or software has reached an end-of-life stage, architects may choose to simply swap aging network appliances with upgraded models -- all while keeping the network configuration and architecture untouched. However, if the upgrade is due to network performance or data security reasons, it will likely require far more changes to routing and switching flows, security policy and other changes to network device configurations.

2. What is the expected life span and budget?

Network infrastructure upgrades may serve a short life span of a few months or up to multiple years for more permanent implementations. If the upgrade's purpose is to be a temporary stopgap while teams design a major overhaul, the budgeted time and money spent on the project will likely be minimal.

On the other hand, if the team expects the upgrade will be more permanent, then budgets, architecture time and implementation resources should be greater.

3. How will network teams coordinate and execute the network infrastructure upgrade?

Upgrading part of an existing production network is not something network teams should take lightly. Teams must develop a detailed plan that steps through each change that could affect business operations.

Additionally, some network changes requiring downtime may negatively affect some parts of the business more than others. If that's the case, teams must identify those users and departments, and upgrade plans should include their input regarding the days or times that specific network changes should occur. This approach will help minimize the overall negative effect on the business or department during maintenance windows.

4. Does an upgrade of one part of the network justify upgrades of others?

When walking through the requirements of a network infrastructure upgrade, teams may find that expanding the upgrade project's scope is justified. If, for example, other aspects of the network will soon require additional upgrades, project managers may opt to perform one large network upgrade, as opposed to several smaller ones.

5. Can operations staff manage newly upgraded network technologies?

If a network upgrade includes implementing technologies that have never existed on the infrastructure before, the network operations team must understand how to monitor, troubleshoot and resolve issues once said technology is moved into production. If the operations team requires training, they must complete it and should be comfortable with the upgrades before the business begins relying on the technology in a production setting.

This was last published in April 2021

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