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Seven networking mistakes to avoid

A bunch of network no-nos could sabotage everything. At Gartner's Enterprise Networking Summit 2006, one research vice president shared a list of seven things NOT to do.

LAS VEGAS -- At Gartner's Enterprise Networking Summit 2006, the emphasis was on relevant research and practical advice for networking practitioners. However, David Willis, research vice president at the firm, kicked things off in the opening keynote by telling network managers exactly what NOT to do. Here he outlines the biggest misconceptions that can sabotage an enterprise network.

Networks are just dumb bandwidth
Contrary to the pervasive view that they are simply bit pipes, networks should play a role in security and application performance. Demand for bandwidth is never-ending, and adding bandwidth to a utilitarian network will not help without deploying measures to help manage that bandwidth. The intelligent network delivers services more efficiently and with better performance than the "stupid" network.

My architecture is my vendor
Large vendors are becoming dominant in the networking industry. The shakeout among hardware vendors and service providers is not over yet, and the biggest vendors are getting even bigger. The effect is that users are being driven by large-vendor momentum to the point that when asked what type of architecture they have, network managers frequently answer, "We're a [insert large vendor name here] shop." Users need to develop a communications architecture that meets their needs and is unique to their business, rather than relying on vendors to dictate the plans for them.

Bandwidth costs are going to go up!
Although network service providers have consolidated, enterprises have so many alternative networking options available to them that prices will not be going up in the foreseeable future. In reality, Gartner estimates, telecom rates will actually drop 8% to 12% per year. Enterprises can also take advantage of optimization tools that can help them to reduce bandwidth needs and further lower costs.

Cost or resiliency -- pick one
The days of having two parallel networks for redundancy are over. With the advent of hybrid networks, architects can design high levels of network reliability using a variety of means, some of which are fairly inexpensive.

Big is good, so biggest must be best
In service provider contracts, larger contracts do not always deliver the best services or value. In the past, enterprises benefited from economies of scale when they signed on for large geographical areas or long terms of service. That no longer holds true. In fact, the very largest contracts often fail for both the buyer and the service provider.

IT must own everything
IT has traditionally forced its will upon users, locking down systems end to end. The advent of extranets, telecommuting and mobility (to name a few) has demanded more flexibility from IT. Increasingly, users own their own devices and the applications -- but IT can and must exercise control over what these devices can do and the data they can access.

Centralized IT is better IT
Centralization is a good cost-reduction strategy, but full centralized control leads to rebellion in the business units, and even to cost inefficiencies. A shared-services strategy is much more effective. The networking team must collaborate with other IT component groups and across all corporate departments to provide effective services.

Willis went on to list the technologies that network managers should have in their deployment plans. He said that convergence and mobility, along with the corollary of communications-enabled business processes, will be important and should be key elements in most enterprises' two- to five-year plans. Willis also identified the integration of security into the network fabric as something that network managers must prepare for, and he emphasized the importance of application intelligence and delivery on the network.

After several years of being commoditized and pushed into the background, Willis said, network practitioners today have the opportunity to transform their businesses with appropriate technology. "The business wants us to be agents of change," he said. "It wants us to lead -- or get out of the way."

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