The cloud has forever altered the IT environment. Organizations have the flexibility to move workloads to the cloud rather than buying and maintaining on-premises equipment, and to dynamically scale the environment to meet changing demands. But the cloud has also increased reliance on the corporate network, both for cloud access and to support the communication and collaboration requirements of geographically dispersed teams.

Trouble is, many networks have not kept pace with this changing dynamic. Organizations typically refresh network gear in seven-year cycles, meaning that any given environment will have seven years’ worth of devices. The equipment will have varying components and capabilities, creating an environment that is difficult to manage and troubleshoot.

The most recent Network Barometer Report from Dimension Data did find that the amount of up-to-date equipment in the typical environment increased to 58 percent from 47 percent the previous year. The flip side is that almost half of the gear is aging or obsolete. Out-of-date equipment is more expensive to maintain, more likely to fail and unable to meet today’s demands.

That’s why organizations should think more like cloud service providers when designing and maintaining the network. Cloud providers had to rewrite the rulebooks in order to architect data centers with unprecedented agility, scalability and availability. The lessons learned in the cloud can help organizations of all sizes achieve similar results, albeit at smaller scale.

Keep it consistent. Data centers traditionally have been built using best-of-breed components, creating a heterogeneous environment that becomes increasingly diverse as it evolves over time. Cloud data centers are built using uniform, interchangeable components. This simplifies deployment and management, improves reliability and makes it easier to plan for capacity requirements.

Refresh more frequently. By refreshing their equipment every two years, cloud providers are able to take advantage of the latest capabilities while maintaining consistency across the environment. Because the capacity and performance of network gear is constantly increasing, a faster refresh cycle enables economies of scale that can actually reduce costs.

Focus on efficiency. A consistent, up-to-date environment enables new levels of operational efficiency — the mantra of the cloud. Best practices are followed, processes are documented, and automation is used wherever possible. IT teams spend less time on day-to-day administration and troubleshooting and more time on business-enabling initiatives. The money saved on operational costs can be poured back into capital investments.

Plan for the future. One thing is certain — the demands on your network are only going to increase. You need a strategy for moving to 25 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) and beyond. Your cabling plant and interconnects need to support that strategy. You also need to consider implementing programmable devices and ensure that your team has the right skills to support them.

Now, no one said getting there would be easy. Cloud providers have spent years fine-tuning their strategies and processes. Plus, organizations have to keep the network up and running as they transition to this new approach. There are numerous critical dependencies to consider in developing an upgrade plan.

IPC Technologies has a team of experienced network engineers who can help you develop a cloud-like approach to your network. We will sit down with you and discuss your present challenges, and gather metrics on network usage to project growth. Armed with that information, we can help you develop an upgrade plan that minimizes risk and business disruption. You’ll gain a future-proof network that better supports your organization’s requirements.