Painless implementations start with proper up front planning. No matter how beneficial a customer's new network services will be, implementation problems can erode financial benefits and create doubt regarding the true capabilities of the new services. Implementations usually require installation and configuration of new equipment. Without proper planning, this can be a disaster, both from a timeline perspective and an actual integration perspective. Delays and adverse impact to the network should be avoided at all cost.
Deployment planning should focus on the following areas:
- Robust architecture
- Standardized configurations and detailed design
- Site readiness
- Scheduling and resourcing
- Change management
- Site turn-up
- Site testing
- Operational handover
Each of these areas in itself can contribute to implementation missteps and problems, so clearly understanding the essential areas of focus in each is important.
A robust architecture is one that defines all aspects of the architecture including the desired features, functionality and capabilities as well as integration into the current network and visibility from a management perspective. If the new network services are enabled via a new technology with which the organization has no prior experience, it is highly recommended that proof-of-concept lab testing or piloting of the solution take place prior to deployment.
Standardized configurations and detailed design
If possible, standard configurations should be created for the network elements delivering the network services. Many installation efforts fail due to inconsistencies in the configuration of the gear during deployment and difficulty in troubleshooting within a non-standard environment.
There is nothing like botching an installation due to the equipment not arriving on time, receiving the wrong equipment or having equipment dead on arrival. The procurement process must include contingencies for all of the above and robust communication channels to notify of delays prior to the implementation window.
No matter how well the architecture has been defined and the configuration details sorted out, if the site where the changes are being made is not ready for the change, none of the other implementation plans matter. Site readiness should consider space, power and HVAC requirements, port availability, and demark extensions at a minimum. There is nothing more frustrating than failing to turn up a site because no one at least eyeballed the equipment room to ensure there is space for the equipment.
Scheduling and resourcing
Getting the right resources to the right place at the right time doing the right tasks is essential to any successful deployment. Implementations are resource dependent and do not happen on their own. Poor planning in this area is a recipe for failure.
Most organizations require that some form of change management process take place to review, schedule and communicate changes within the environment. Change management can be process intensive and in some cases constrained to certain windows of time. However, not adhering to the process can bring the scheduled installation to a screeching halt.
Site turn-ups require resources to install and configure the network elements to deliver new network services. Having a well documented installation and configuration script (list of tasks) is essential to guiding the turn-up resources through the installation in a predefined manner. Feedback on improvements and nuances learned through the turn-ups can provide a mechanism for defining the optimal sequence of tasks.
Site testing is most often overlooked as a part of the installation. Testing of the network functionality is a given, but in addition, application services should be tested. Having a typical user workstation execute normal day-to-day tasks can provide a level of reassurance that the network is working as designed.
There should be a standardized process for turning over the network to the operations team post implementation. This allows for day-two management to commence and for any issues to be addressed by the operations team rather than the deployment team. Having the deployment resources also support the day-two management can stretch resources thin and impact the deployment significantly. In addition to defining the process for handover, the operational team should be trained on the technology prior to deployment.
All of the above areas, if not addressed up front, can severely impact a successful deployment. It all comes back to proper planning and execution of the plan.
About the author:
Robbie Harrell (CCIE#3873) is the National Practice Lead for Advanced Infrastructure Solutions for AT&T. He has more than 10 years of experience providing strategic, business and technical consulting services. Robbie lives in Atlanta and is a graduate of Clemson University. His background includes positions as a principal architect at International Network Services, Lucent, Frontway, Callisma and SBC Communications.