Three pillars of network resilience in the modern world

Editorial Type: Opinion Date: 10-2020 Views: 571 Tags: Opengear
Alan Stewart-Brown, VP EMEA, Opengear looks at how networks are continuing to operate safely and securely in these uncertain times

Almost every organisation needs a network that delivers network resilience: in other words, one that helps to keep the mean time to remediate any issue to a minimum, while helping ensure the uptime of mission-critical applications and services. Achieving this has become more urgent and yet more difficult to achieve in the pandemic.

By raising the risk to corporate networks, the pandemic has taught us that their high availability should be regarded as mission-critical to any continuity plan. After all, what's the point of enabling employees to work remotely if the corporate network becomes unreachable? Unfortunately, delivering on this goal has also become more problematic for businesses through the outbreak, largely because of the challenges they have faced in getting IT and engineering out to remote sites.

So, given the issues outlined above, how can organisations best build a truly resilient network, that is genuinely fit for purpose in these times? Today, a successful approach to achieving network resilience needs to be constructed on three key pillars.

Tools for network resilience have often been seen as an insurance policy when the network breaks down. Network resilience has been synonymous with time to recovery; getting the network up and running as quickly as possible when there is an outage and engineers have been sent out to site.

In a global economy it is important for tools that deliver network resilience to be able to plug into all of the equipment at a data centre or edge site regardless of geographical location, map it and establish what is online and offline at any given time. That enables a system reboot to be quickly carried out remotely. If that does not work, it might well be that an issue with a software update is the root of the problem.

With the latest Smart Out-of-Band (OOB) devices this can be addressed, because an image of the core equipment and its configuration can be retained, and the device can be quickly rebuilt remotely. In the event of an outage, it is therefore possible to deliver network resilience via failover to cellular, while the original fault is being remotely addressed, enabling the business to keep up and running even while the primary network is down.

As NetOps automation increasingly comes on stream, the definition of network resilience is evolving to cover the initial setup and provisioning phase; thereby helping to ensure that organisations can effectively self-deploy and self-configure their network infrastructure from day one.

With a combination of the latest Smart OOB and NetOps tools, businesses can configure and set up systems on day one, delivering secure provisioning of new locations through the network operations centre, without having to send an engineer out to site. To facilitate this, tools can be made available to automate and orchestrate the NetOps workflow.

OOB and NetOps in combination is, however, not just about remediation and initial configuration. Organisations can also use the approach to provide resilient ongoing network management during normal operations, helping to eliminate errors and increase efficiency through always-on access delivered through a secure gateway.

Furthermore, using a separate network management plane allows organisations to securely monitor and access all devices without impacting normal operations. It's what we might term a 'virtual hands' approach. Issues can be diagnosed quickly; engineers are alerted when a problem has occurred at a remote site and will then be able to proactively 'go to' the device from their home office without having to get in their car or jump on an aeroplane.

Ultimately too, organisations need a central point of access and management for network resilience that delivers visibility over the whole network and that can manage Out-of-Band Access and act as an engine for NetOps automation and orchestration.

Today, it is becoming clear that businesses need an approach based around OOB and NetOps. With an always active secure management plane, organisations can configure, monitor and remediate their infrastructure securely from wherever their IT teams are located. They can deliver the three pillars of resilience that are so crucial to the smooth running of the network today, and by so doing, they can help keep the network safe and secure. NC