Network Design and WAN Connectivity: A Three-Step Process to Balance Price, Performance, Risk

January 22nd, 2019

SD-WAN and the dynamic nature of hybrid networks are making it easier than ever for CIOs to diversify WAN connectivity and rethink their IT infrastructure. But this new agility brings with it the responsibility to engineer the smartest network design. After all, IT architectures impact application reliability, visibility, and security too.

The problem with many WAN connectivity design approaches is threefold:

No doubt, there’s both an art and a science to sound network design. The artistry comes with years of experience, but the “science” is really just a few design principles and best practices that are easy to learn. Here’s a three-step process to overcome the challenges above.

Guiding Principles: Price, Performance, and Risk

Translating business goals into an ideal network design can be tricky for some. The key is to let business needs lead the design and then strike the right balance between price and performance, so the network adequately supports business continuity and doesn’t cross the threshold of risk tolerance.

Avoid the common misstep of designing from a ‘speeds and feeds’ spreadsheet or from the limitations of a single, predefined access methodology. Instead, desired outcomes should inspire the design. Function should drive form–not the other way around. Start with an inventory of your apps, user groups, workloads, and workflows, prioritizing the importance of each. Then design from there keeping the cost and reliability of each access methodology in mind. Here is the process that Masergy uses as well as some key considerations that can help keep designs founded in best practices.

Step 1: Prioritize Your Needs and Understand Connectivity Pros and Cons

Prepare with these two pieces of information which should guide your strategy.

Start with Your Business Continuity Needs: Chart Your Risk Tolerance

In order to navigate compromises effectively, you should have an intimate understanding of your business continuity risk tolerance broken down by application, location, and user group and then also categorized by importance–as critical, important, or discretionary. The result of this inventory exercise should act as a framework for prioritization and a network design blueprint that allows you to match application/location/user groups with appropriate connectivity types.

How to Do It: Create lists of each office or branch location, user group, and business application and categorize each as critical, important, or discretionary.

Review Connectivity Types and the Relationship between Price and Reliability

Network Risk Tolerance LineBefore attempting to match application/location/user groups with the appropriate connectivity types, review their availability risk and their price point. Ultimately, you get what you pay for. The more it costs, the more reliable it will be.

  • Private Access (SD-VPN): Higher price point but extremely reliable
  • Direct Internet Access (Public): Mid-tier price point and more reliable
  • Broadband Internet Access: Lowest price point and less predictable

(Remember that you don’t see SD-WAN on the list of connectivity types, because SD-WAN is an overlay technology and not a connectivity type. Learn more about connectivity and SD-WAN myths.)


Step 2: Design Your Network

Now you’re ready to design. Let your business needs and your risk tolerance be your guide in mapping your application/location/user groups to the ideal network access types that meet both your performance and budgetary requirements. Ask yourself: In an ideal world, what would each location, business unit, and app use as a connectivity method?

Through the design process, you shouldn’t feel pressured to abandon existing private connections, but rather identify any discretionary locations and less-critical applications that may be able to transition from private to public (i.e. from MPLS to direct Internet access or to broadband Internet access). Remember to design freely, mixing and matching private and public connectivity types as needed.

Step 3: Draft Plans and Requirements for Agility and Visibility

Once you have mapped your ideal network, the next challenge is execution. Whether you’re using a DIY approach or leaning on a managed network services provider, these technical requirements will make it easier to identify a networking plan that is flexible and agile enough to deliver on your ideal design.

How do you tease out the leaders in these areas above? Here’s a white paper with a list of 75 RFP questions that can help.

When you’re ready for a free whiteboarding session that puts your needs first, call on the team at Masergy. “Driven by business requirements” is our mantra. Our solution engineers will customize a network designed around your requirements and deliver a solution capable of dynamically adapting alongside your ever-changing needs.

Chris Werpy

Chris Werpy is senior vice president of solutions and services and has been with Masergy since 2007. He leads multiple teams and is responsible for the Solutions Engineering, Client Services and Emerging Markets organizations. He brings more than 15 years of networking and communications experience with a proven track record in technical and strategic roles in operations, sales and business development. Prior to joining Masergy, Chris held various leadership positions at ICG Communications, LineSider Technologies and Pac-West Telecom. He has published numerous industry articles, spoken on various panels and is a recognized thought leader in the communications and security industries.

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