What Is Network Planning, and How Can You Plan For New Networks?

What Is Network Planning, and How Can You Plan For New Networks?

Network planning is the process of strategically organizing and arranging the operations of a network to ensure smooth and efficient communication and data transfer. This involves drafting the physical layout of the network, deciding the network topology, selecting appropriate hardware and software, and considering factors like location, network size, number of users, and future growth. 

Network planning also involves managing network capacity to handle traffic and usage load while ensuring optimal performance and security measures. This process is vital for organizations to ensure their network resources are used effectively and scale as per organizational needs.

Nile Access Service has been designed to automate all aspects of wired and wireless access network planning and design work by focusing on guaranteed uptime and elimination of guesswork in enhancing overall system performance. Here are some of those key steps:

  • High capacity install and cabling health check: Nile eliminates poor installations by ensuring high capacity installs and conducting a thorough cabling health check.
  • High density design and deployment of Wi-Fi 6 APs: Nile eliminates guesswork by designing and deploying high-density Wi-Fi 6 access points.
  • Proactively detect deviations in system status from baseline: Nile goes deeper by proactively detecting deviations in system status from the baseline.
  • Report key results on user, device, app quality: Nile eliminates alert-fatigue by tracking real-time trends on key results on user, device, and app quality.
  • Proactively test with softbots and physical sensors: Nile automatically fine-tunes the network by proactively testing with softbots and physical sensors.

Nile's approach to network planning and design is based on standardized system design, a unified software release, and a single data store across the tech stack and lifecycle operations. This enables full-stack automation and continuous optimization, streamlining traditionally very expensive design, installation, deployment, monitoring, and support workflows.

Network planning steps

Effective network planning is the foundation of any robust and responsive IT infrastructure. Below are the steps needed to ensure your network meets current and future demands.

1. Needs assessment

In this initial phase, network planners conduct interviews and surveys to thoroughly understand the organization's communication technology requirements. They assess factors like the number of users, their roles, connectivity needs, types of applications in use, and data security requirements, taking into account compliance considerations. Additionally, they evaluate any existing network infrastructure, identifying areas that need improvement or enhancement.

2. Network architecture design

Building upon the needs assessment, network planners design a comprehensive network architecture that aligns with the organization's objectives and demands. This involves selecting the appropriate network hardware, including switches, routers, and access points, while considering factors such as scalability, redundancy, and performance.

Software solutions, such as operating systems, security software, and network management tools, are chosen to complement the hardware. The network topology, whether it's bus, ring, star, or a hybrid, is determined based on the organization's scalability and reliability requirements. A detailed network diagram often created to visually depict the proposed architecture. Network monitoring software often includes a live topology map detailing devices, routes, and bottlenecks.

3. Implementation plan

The implementation plan is a detailed roadmap that outlines every step of deploying the network. It includes instructions for installing hardware components, such as switches, routers, access points, and cabling.

Configuration details for network devices, such as IP addressing, VLANs, and firewall rules, are documented. If transitioning from an existing network, data migration strategies are outlined. The plan also specifies how all network components will be interconnected and tested to ensure smooth communication.

4. Testing and validation

Following the implementation, rigorous testing is conducted to verify that the network meets its expected performance levels. This includes confirming the proper functioning of all hardware components, such as switches and routers, and thoroughly testing security systems, including firewalls and intrusion detection/prevention systems.

Data transfer rates, latency, and overall network responsiveness are validated. Any issues discovered during testing are addressed and resolved to ensure the network operates as intended.

5. Network documentation

Network documentation is a crucial step that involves thoroughly documenting the entire network design and implementation process. This includes creating detailed network diagrams that illustrate the physical and logical layout of the network. User guides and manuals are prepared to provide clear instructions for network usage and troubleshooting. An inventory of all network equipment, software licenses, and warranty information is compiled for reference.

6. Training

Proper training is provided to both end users and IT staff. End users receive comprehensive training on how to effectively utilize the network to meet their needs. IT staff members are trained in network management, troubleshooting, and maintenance procedures. Additionally, users and IT personnel are educated on security best practices to ensure the network remains secure.

7. Maintenance and upgrades

After the network is fully operational, routine maintenance becomes a critical component to ensure optimal functionality. Network planners typically establish a schedule for ongoing monitoring, maintenance, and optimization of the network.

This includes regular updates of software, including security patches and firmware upgrades. Periodic performance assessments and capacity planning are performed to anticipate future needs and ensure the network continues to meet evolving requirements. Hardware upgrades and replacements are planned to maintain network reliability and scalability.

Nile Access Service integrates several key capabilities for network operations within its integrated solution. It does so by utilizing cloud software and AI to drive continuous automation across traditionally manual workflows for network, security, and operations engineering. This alignment of requirements enables proactive problem resolution, reduces business risk with integrated zero trust security, and accelerates time to service at scale. 

For infrastructure teams, Nile proactively detects performance deviations and enacts tuning to maximize resilience: enabling an industry first guaranteed performance for coverage, capacity and availability of its next-generation wired and wireless access network. 

How does forecasting in network planning work?

Forecasting is critical in network planning, providing the necessary data and information about future demand and trends. This enables organizations to make informed decisions on capacity planning, resource allocation, and infrastructure expansion. Here are some specific roles of forecasting in network planning:

Future demand prediction

Using data analysis, administrators can determine future demand for services. The company can plan the bandwidth and resources needed to handle this demand with this information. This is typically done by analyzing historical data, and current network usage metrics, and employing predictive analytics models.

Capacity planning

Based on forecasted demand, organizations can ensure they have sufficient network capacity to handle the future increase in traffic without affecting performance. This involves assessing the current capacity and comparing it with projected growth rates to determine necessary upgrades.

Infrastructure investment

By forecasting future trends, organizations can decide on when and where to invest in infrastructure expansion. It also helps in determining the technologies they should be investing in. Investment decisions often stem from a blend of technological feasibility studies, ROI calculations, and anticipated market shifts.

Resource allocation

Forecasting can also guide strategically allocating resources across the network to meet future demand. Allocation decisions are typically made using optimization tools and models, ensuring that resources are deployed where they'll deliver the most impact.

Risk mitigation

By forecasting potential issues or challenges, organizations can prepare contingency plans, helping to ensure network uptime and service reliability. This process often includes scenario planning, where multiple potential challenges are envisioned, and solutions are crafted in advance.

Strategic planning

Accurate forecasting can also aid in long-term strategic planning, including exploring new markets, planning new services, or retiring legacy systems. This involves comprehensive market research, stakeholder input, and a vision for where the company wants to be in the future.

Network planning requirements

Network planning encompasses an array of factors, from understanding the organization's communication needs and security prerequisites to evaluating existing infrastructure and scalability demands. This initial phase lays the foundation for designing a network that meets the immediate needs and aligns seamlessly with the organization's long-term goals, making it a critical and strategic endeavor in the realm of information technology.

Infrastructure

The primary step involves defining the necessary infrastructure. This encompasses decisions on whether the network will be wired or wireless and selecting the appropriate wiring and equipment. Site surveys, evaluations of physical constraints, and user needs usually inform such decisions.

Capacity

Ensuring the network can accommodate all users is essential. It must be scalable to handle growing user numbers and data volumes. Capacity planning often uses traffic modeling and historical data predictions to anticipate future needs.

Performance

Performance metrics, including speed, reliability, and quality of service, are fundamental. The network design should minimize latency and downtime. This typically involves benchmark tests, simulations, and selecting high-quality equipment.

Security

Ensuring a network's security is paramount. Implementations should be in place to guard against threats like viruses, hacks, and breaches. This often means deploying firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and regular vulnerability assessments.

Budget

Every planning phase should factor in the project's budget, covering procurement, installation, maintenance, and other potential costs. Budgeting often requires a balance of desired features and available resources, sometimes necessitating phased rollouts.

Policy compliance

The network design must adhere to IT policies, regional regulations, and industry standards. Compliance checks and audits, coupled with thorough documentation, ensure this adherence.

Redundancy

A robust backup strategy is essential in case of component failures. Strategies include deploying duplicate hardware or establishing alternate communication routes. Regular failover tests help validate these strategies.

Future growth

Designing the network with scalability in mind ensures it can accommodate organizational expansion. This foresight can mean modular infrastructure or cloud-based solutions that scale with demand.

Interoperability

Ensuring seamless communication between all components is crucial. Achieving this might involve standardizing on a single vendor's products or ensuring chosen products adhere to universal standards.

Maintenance

Maintaining and managing the network efficiently is vital for consistent performance and reliability.  Network health can be monitored and managed using dedicated software, with proactive alerts to flag potential issues.

User requirements

The network should ultimately cater to its users' needs. By engaging with users, conducting surveys, and holding focus groups, planners can gather insights into what's required and integrate those needs into the design.

Nile simplifies network design with a single high-density and available architecture at each site. Their unified data and software architecture enables one-touch provisioning workflows across the entire tech stack and eliminates local configuration options for network elements to prevent downtime due to misconfiguration. 

Nile Access Service leverages physical sensors and software bots to enable deep analysis of the overall service health - from user experience to hardware infrastructure monitoring. This continuous testing delivers high-definition coverage and capacity, and enables instrumentation to remediate performance issues proactively.

What is dimensioning in network planning?

Dimensioning in network planning refers to the process of determining the capacity requirements of a network. This includes deciding on the number and size of the network elements (like routers, switches, or links) that are needed to handle the expected traffic load. 

Take a college campus as an example. Administrators need to estimate the peak-hour traffic on a network link connecting the library to the main server, the storage space required in a data center storing research data, or how many simultaneous connections a server in the student dormitory should be able to handle. These decisions take into account factors like the number of students, faculty, the applications they utilize (e.g., online learning platforms), and their patterns of usage, especially during exam seasons.

Dimensioning is vital in network planning. An under-dimensioned college campus network can lead to slow internet speeds during critical times, affecting students' online learning experiences. Conversely, an over-dimensioned network might produce inflated costs without tangible benefits. Therefore, dimensioning aims to strike a balance between meeting operational demands and maintaining budgetary considerations.

What is traffic engineering in network planning?

Traffic engineering is a method of optimizing the performance of a telecommunications network by dynamically analyzing, predicting and regulating the behavior of data transmitted over that network. The objective is to avoid congested routes on the network and ensure that data transmission is as smooth as possible.

Traffic engineering encompasses concepts, techniques, and tools used in the design phase, before the network is built and the operational phase of the existing network. During the design phase, traffic engineering is concerned with dimensioning network resources according to traffic demands and a certain Quality of Service (QoS) requirement.

In the operational phase, traffic engineering reacts on a shorter-term scale to unpredictable traffic matrix or network resource changes. It seeks to optimize network performance through traffic management procedures such as routing and capacity allocation. In Internet Protocol (IP) based networks, traffic engineering processes encompass techniques and processes that cause IP traffic to transit a network on a path other than the one that would have been chosen if standard routing methods were used.

Several technical strategies and tools are used in traffic engineering, including network-level tactics such as traffic management, robust and efficient routing, provisioning resources, and priority schemes.

What is survivability in network planning?

The term "survivability" in the context of network planning refers to the capability of a network to continue functioning even in the event of partial damages like failure of nodes or connections. This is a crucial aspect of network planning because systems must be designed in a way that allows continuous operations, data flow, and services even when network components fail or are compromised. 

Survivable networks are designed to automatically reroute data along a different path when a failure is detected. This is achieved through various strategies, such as redundancy, where extra or duplicate network devices are installed, or multiple connections are used to transmit the same data.

Other strategies include automatic failover systems, error detection and correction schemes in data transmission, and various other network protocols and algorithms designed specifically for fault tolerance.

In the planning phase, different types of failures that the network might face, the probability of their occurrence, and their potential impact on the system's performance are assessed. Based on this assessment, appropriate survivability mechanisms are incorporated into the network design to ensure resilient and uninterrupted operations.

What is data-driven network design?

Data-driven network design is a process where network systems and models are created or enhanced based on collected data. The data comes from various sources like traffic patterns, usage statistics, network performance metrics, and hardware specifications.

Key aspects of data-driven network design include:

Better decision making

The collected data can be analyzed to make decisions about the future of the network design, improvements needed, or issues to be rectified.

Predictive analysis

Data-driven design allows network planners to predict future network needs and potential issues. This can help in proactive planning and preparing for future capacity requirements.

Improved efficiency

By analyzing traffic patterns and usage statistics, networks can be designed to optimize efficiency and performance according to demands.

Enhanced reliability

If the network is designed based on real data, its reliability under those conditions can be ensured. This approach also aids in redundancy planning.

Cost savings

Optimal network design grounded in actual data can prevent unnecessary expenditures on hardware or infrastructure. It facilitates informed decisions about where to invest for maximum return.

Advanced techniques

With the support of machine learning and artificial intelligence, network designs can continually evolve and adjust to changing data and requirements.

Data-driven network design represents a shift from traditional network design methods, where decisions are often made based on assumptions or best guesses. Instead, actual data is used as the cornerstone of the design process, thus fostering accuracy, efficiency, and reliability.

What is the Future of Network Planning?

The future of network planning is set to be shaped by several key trends, including:

Integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)

AI and ML can help automate routine tasks, identify patterns, and conduct predictive analyses. Their integration will be pivotal in handling the growing complexity and scale of networks.

Use of big data

With the proliferation of connected devices, an immense volume of network data is generated. Analyzing this data offers valuable insights into network performance, user behavior, and emerging challenges.

Cloud-based network planning

As many organizations transition to the cloud, network planning will similarly shift from on-premise solutions to cloud-oriented planning tools due to their scalability and adaptability.

Enhanced security measures

With the constant evolution of cyber threats, incorporating stringent security protocols in network planning becomes indispensable to safeguard data and uphold network integrity.

User-centric planning

The future trajectory of network planning will prioritize the user experience, ensuring the network consistently offers peak performance to its end-users.

Take the guesswork out of network planning

Network planning and design doesn't have to be complicated. Nile Access Service relieves you of the burden of designing the network yourself. It offers a seamless network experience that aligns with your strategic requirements–delivered as a service.

Nile Access Service eliminates traditional complexity around network operations, reduces high up-front costs, and handles the challenge of managing and maintaining your enterprise network. As an industry first, it guarantees performance for wireless coverage, network capacity and overall system availability, while offering usage-based billing for flexible consumption.

With Nile, you can rest assured knowing your network performance outcomes like availability and capacity are guaranteed. Next-gen wired and wireless access network from Nile includes built-in zero-trust networking measures extending your corporate best practices for user, device and data security to campus and branch networks. 

Discover how Nile can plan, design, and implement your next-generation wired and wireless access network.

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