Has Physical Network Redundancy Had Its Day?

Posted on May 10, 2018

Has Physical Network Redundancy Had Its Day

Software defined this, virtualised that...the choices for IT teams have never been more mind-boggling. But, put all that aside. Park the hype and let’s talk old school network redundancy.

Network redundancy is like an insurance policy for corporate or industrial networks. Those that require high availability or are involved in mission-critical operations, will benefit from data path redundancy. It makes an investment into network redundancy a smart strategy. And being an investment means that you need to make sure your business understands the value, or it can be viewed as a nice-to-have which gets cut during the next budget round.

What is redundancy and who needs it?

Network redundancy is a communications pathway that has additional or extra links connecting nodes. By creating multiple data pathways within a particular network, between all locations, it safeguards against interruptions. If one cable, switch or router unexpectedly fails, other pathways are available to continue the communication flow.

Redundancy in the network ensures that productivity is not compromised by reducing the risk of system downtime.

Most industries can benefit from network redundancy, where a failure within the automated network could bring production or processes to a standstill, causing a significant damage to reputation alone. And the damage to reputation can far outweigh downtime. Ask airlines how bad it gets when they can’t access their applications. Chaos ensues and people get unhappy….very quickly.

Risk versus value

The risk versus value equation comes down to how resilient your network needs to be.  Obviously there is additional cost in supplying network redundancy, which needs to be weighed against the cost of system downtime. And that cost can be easily calculated. The oft quoted Gartner number pegs downtime at US$5,600 per minute for enterprises (and that was in 2014 dollars!). Just one hour of outage for a business can well exceed the investment in a redundant network for mission critical operations.

With the increasing expectation of constant availability, redundant networks offer significant value over the long-term. Taking into account loss of productivity and system downtime due to maintenance or breakage, makes network redundancy imperative.

Hybrid networks and multi-cloud connections

Hybrid networks and cloud connections are an easy way of building in resilience and ensuring business continuity. Integrating a layered network means that you can add to your organisation’s WAN (Wide Area Network), ensuring adequate redundancy without having to take systems offline to do so. It also means there’s no ‘rip and replace’. Instead the hybrid approach means that pathways can be layered and superseded technology phased out when needed.

Likewise, the model of using multiple cloud services has many advantages. It can provide security, flexibility and can ensure the efficiency of your business in minimising the risk of downtime. Simply speaking, if one cloud service goes offline, others are there to maintain business continuity.

Optimal strategy

So what does the optimal redundancy network strategy actually look like? Of course the answer is going to depend on the individual needs of each enterprise and selecting the right redundancy protection configuration requires evaluation of system and application requirements.

The following are elements to be taken into consideration:

  • Required speed

In additional redundancy, factor burst capacity on your links. Make sure your conversations with your carrier ensure they have capacity to meet your demands when things go nuts. Remember the Black Friday sales anyone?

  • Physical layout of the network

Can your carrier offer physical diversity to switch to a physically diverse network should an outage happen on a primary route? For Vocus, we service a number of  extensive government health networks and one of the key considerations was that we had to provide diverse, geographically diverse connection at key facilities (such as major hospitals).

  • Probability of failure

Some infrastructure environments have a greater risk of damage than others. For example subterranean, buried or subsea cabling pose a higher risk of breakage and more than one redundant pathway could be needed. Connections like the soon-to-be lit Australian Submarine Cable will provide Australia with a robust physically redundant network from Australia’s east or western coasts.

  • Cloud flexibility

The IT business landscape is continually evolving and this particularly includes your cloud solution requirements. Ensure your cloud requirements can be scaled up or down without fear of being ‘locked in’ to one specific solution. As your business grows, your redundancy needs also grow.

To discuss more about the benefits of network redundancy, as well as options of hybrid networks and multi-cloud connections, call VOCUS on 1800 032 290.

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