Network Capacity Planning

Shouldering the Load: Planning for Added Network Capacity

Almost every organization is facing the challenge of rapidly expanding networks, as our recent survey highlights in detail. Findings reveal that 83 percent of professionals claim their company’s networks (e.g., switches, routers, firewalls, etc.) have increased in size over the last year.

How do network teams prepare for this and ensure that their network is ready to handle the additional capacity? It is often a multi-phase process as organizations attempt to understand if the current network design and capacities are sufficient to meet the anticipated growth of the network.

Let’s dive into each phase and examine how organizations can avoid the process challenges and ensure their network is poised to handle the added capacity.

Phase 1: Identify Resources and Acceptable Thresholds

Unsurprisingly, the first step of the process requires a clear picture of where the network stands today. Ideally, an organization can easily identify their current resources and thresholds to have a view of its current capacity. Our survey also revealed that 61 percent of engineers and managers did not have the network documentation required to gain insight into their network’s current capacity and thresholds.

With NetBrain, leading organizations are automating network diagrams to make this process extremely efficient. NetBrain can automate documentation, creating accurate maps and inventory reports of all devices and links with color-coded legends highlighting current capacities. The key for any organization is to have clear visibility into the network, making the identification process far simpler.

Phase 2: Discover Current and Transient Hotspots

Identifying hotspots is critical in the capacity planning process, as this allows organizations to identify where added capacity is needed. For even the most experienced network engineers, identifying transient hotspots can be challenging but it’s important that organizations uncover devices operating outside of acceptable thresholds. By automating diagnoses with NetBrain, monitoring tools can constantly poll devices, using triggered runbooks to perform periodic sampling and generate required data with minimal impact to the network.

Phase 3: Assess Identified Deficiencies for Criticality

Once organizations understand their network resources and identify hotspots and devices operating outside of acceptable thresholds, the next troubleshooting steps would seem to be relatively simple. Unfortunately, one of the biggest roadblocks that organizations face in the third phase is understanding the network context. It is difficult to understand the business impact of a hotspot on critical operations without being able to see the network context.

By dynamically mapping traffic flows with NetBrain, this is an easier process. Network teams can understand critical application flows so they can prioritize monitoring and capacity upgrades minimizing the impact of capacity deficiencies in critical applications.

Phase 4: Prepare for Further Growth and New Applications

Once capacity upgrades are complete, it’s critical that network teams ensure the network is properly prepared for future capacity needs. This includes maintaining operation baselines for performance and monitoring the environment without generating “monitoring hotspots”. Organizations often have plenty of data on these topics, but are unable to translate that into useful information efficiently.  Additionally, as new applications are rolled out on the network, organizations must be prepared for how that will impact capacity.

By using NetBrain maps as a single pane of glass, network teams can aggregate multiple data sources to provide visibility and context. This allows engineers to easily identify areas of interest on a continual basis, so that adding capacity becomes a much more efficient process.