Inside Gartner’s 10 Worst Networking Practices

No networking team plans to become inefficient. But in the rush to solve today’s pressing problems, inefficient practices creep into many organizations. A recent Gartner research note identified the worst of these networking practices, their symptoms, and what you can do about them. We thought the report to be so informative that we’ve made it free to download for a limited time. Download it from here.

The report, “Avoid These ‘Bottom 10’ Networking Worst Practices,” by Andrew Lerner, Bill Menezes, Vivek Bhalla, and Danellie Young  identifies the most common “bad” networking practices Gartner analysts have seen over the course of several thousand of interactions with Gartner clients.  Often, these practices grew out of the best intentions, evolving incrementally over time.

The research categorizes these practices in four categories — cultural, design and operational, and financial:

  • Cultural “worst practices” describe a general attitude towards towards innovation and collaboration. Specific examples include excessive risk avoidance, adherence to manual network changes, and network silo-ism.
  • Design and operational “worst practices” describe a set of practices that impinge on network agility, increase costs, and complicate troubleshooting. These include the accumulation of technical debt, lack of a business-centric network strategy, WAN waste, and limited network visibility.
  • Financial “worst practices” describe the decision making process where companies are led to  vendor lock-in and to taking questionable advice from vendors or resellers pushing their own agenda.

With each practice, Gartner explains the context of the specific practice, identifies symptoms, and provides concrete actions you can take to address the practice in your organization. With “excessive risk avoidance,” for example, Gartner explains that because a disproportionately high degree of responsibility for  overall IT system availability falls on the networking team, personnel are heavily motivated to maintain high-availability infrastructures. More broadly, the focus on availability and concern about downtime fosters a culture of risk avoidance.

Caution isn’t a bad thing, but excessive caution can result in a reluctance to even consider new architectures, refusal to assess new or non-incumbent vendors, and insist on delivering over-engineered solutions. A very practical example — MPLS. Gartner explains that some companies will use MPLS at all branch locations without regard for the availability, performance, applications and capacity needs of the users at the location.

What can be done? Since risk avoidance stems from the desire to limit network outages, Gartner explains that “…organizations must shift the way network downtime is handled in their organizations. This requires incorporating “anti-fragile” designs and enabling blameless postmortems. Further, network leaders must foster innovation and encourage appropriate risk taking rather than risk avoidance.”

For  further ways to address “excessive risk avoidance” and the rest of the Gartner “worst” practices, download the report for free here.