By John Bidgood, CTO Systal.

What is a robust IT network?

The idea of building a robust IT network and service excellence could mean different things to different organisations, but the simplest way of understanding it is as a network which combines excellent performance and reliability with clarity and control for those in management. Meaning that it doesn’t just perform well, it is also understood well. This sounds like a straightforward principle. However, today’s complex and dynamic enterprise networks face a variety of challenges when it comes to achieving robustness. In a series of three blogs on IT service excellence, we’re going to guide you through some of those challenges and threats – and how best to mitigate them.

Why robustness matters

Robustness is an incredibly important quality for enterprise IT networks and service excellence, as the rate of technological advancement is increasing at almost the same dynamic rate as complexity of integration.

This means that when you are working in the IT operations space it can be all too easy to feel like you are falling behind if you are not constantly bringing the latest technologies and features or using cloud services as much as possible.

However, this requirement for business agility and a cost-effective IT operation needs to be balanced against the potential risk to your business continuity. If you succumb to the pressure and rush to get new features up and running without a careful enough approach to risk assessment and business continuity, then there is a greater chance that this new technology could be poorly integrated and managed. In turn, this could end up compromising your operations and even your broader reputation in the marketplace.

As such, it is essential you plan, test and think carefully about potential holes in your operational and the security requirements for any new network implementation, and build robustness in from the ground up.

Threat 1: vendor sprawl

Vendor sprawl refers to the uncontrolled proliferation of an organisation’s cloud instances, services or providers. It typically occurs when the organisation in question has failed to achieve adequate visibility or control over its cloud computing environments.

Vendor sprawl is a threat to robustness because each new third party is a separate entity that needs managing and controlling. A new vendor means a new contract with KPIs and ROI to measure, and a new name to add to a long list of management responsibilities internally. The more vendors you are working with, the more complex the process of managing patches and upgrades becomes too – which can rapidly lead to gaping security holes.

Furthermore, vendor sprawl can rapidly lead to problems with interoperability, where third party systems do not ‘talk’ to each other efficiently, or to unnecessary duplication, where they end up overlapping in terms of their functionality. Once again, this causes unnecessary complexity, and potentially opens up vulnerabilities.

Mitigating the threat of vendor sprawl depends on taking an extremely rational view of your third-party supplier list, asking honestly, how many tools you really need and who is running the ones that you already have. Typically, this involves a period of network discovery and mapping, understanding all of the vendors currently in play and any points at which they duplicate or overlap – as well as points where interoperability is inadequate.

As part of this, you should question whether the decision to run each application internally or externally is the correct one, and what you will lose or gain by moving it on-premise or to a third party. Just because one model has worked for a long time does not mean it is the right setup for a robust future.

Next, you need to think carefully about which vendors you genuinely trust to procure from, and this question should be tied back to the overall goal of a robust network. The best IT vendors today understand the dynamic challenges being faced by enterprise IT departments, and work hard to offer as much visibility as possible into their technology.

Vendor sprawl can be a significant barrier to building a robust network – but it is by no means the only one. In the next blog in this series on service excellence, we will be turning to multi-cloud implementations and delving further into duplication and redundancy. Meantime, contact us if you have any questions.