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Outdated network infrastructure poses a significant risk to the security and continuity of business operations. According to NTT’s “2020 Global Network Insights Report,” obsolete devices contain nearly twice as many security vulnerabilities as currently supported solutions. Outdated network hardware is also more likely to fail, and the ability to recover from a failure is severely hampered by a lack of vendor support. However, network upgrades can be highly disruptive, so many organizations delay network upgrades to avoid business interruption. They don’t realize that their outdated devices are like ticking time bombs that could bring down their network at any moment. In this post, we’ll provide advice that helps answer the question: How do I upgrade network infrastructure without disrupting business operations?

Why and when to upgrade network infrastructure

Obsolete network infrastructure no longer receives updates and security patches from the vendor. That means any vulnerabilities that exist on the device will remain open, giving cybercriminals time to find and exploit them. In addition, older network solutions often lack the advanced security features like SSO and MFA, which are required for Zero Trust.

Even supported legacy devices suffer from limitations that can prevent a business from achieving its technological goals. For instance, legacy devices may not support automation, making it difficult to achieve NetDevOps transformation. Plus, as enterprise networks grow more distributed, there’s a need for solutions that support SD-WAN and SD-Branch technology.

Sometimes the solutions themselves aren’t terribly outdated, it’s just that business requirements have changed in such a way that the existing infrastructure can’t support. For example, an organization may migrate some applications and systems to the cloud, so they need networking solutions that support hybrid environments. In addition, the mix of old and new devices and cloud and on-premises resources increases management complexity and prevents teams from effectively leveraging network orchestration.

Obsolete devices, outdated security, limited automation support, and changing business requirements are all important reasons to upgrade network infrastructure. However, these upgrades must be approached with a thoughtful strategy to reduce the impact on the performance and availability of business resources.

How to upgrade network infrastructure with minimal business interruption

Vendor agnostic platforms are the key to smooth network infrastructure upgrades. Vendor agnostic (a.k.a. vendor neutral) network management platforms support integrations with all or most viable and established network solutions, including legacy devices.

Vendor-neutral management devices, such as the Nodegrid Serial Console, support both legacy and modern Cisco pinouts. That means Nodegrid provides a single, unified platform from which to manage all the outdated devices you already have as well as any new solutions you add to your infrastructure. This reduces management complexity for network administrators, giving them more time to focus on optimizing performance and planning future network upgrades.

Additionally, a vendor-neutral network orchestration platform can use that management device to extend modern automation and orchestration to legacy hardware. A truly vendor-agnostic platform, such as Nodegrid Manager (for on-premises and private cloud deployments) or ZPE Cloud (for public cloud and hybrid deployments) can run third-party automation playbooks and custom Python scripts. This gives network administrators the unprecedented ability to implement a fully-automated NetOps environment even while still rolling out infrastructure upgrades.

The final piece of the puzzle is vendor-neutral Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP). ZTP gives you the ability to deploy new devices efficiently and securely in remote data centers, branch offices, and edge compute sites. ZTP devices are provisioned automatically over the network, reducing the need for onsite deployments or pre-staging. A vendor-neutral ZTP solution like Nodegrid can extend ZTP to other vendors’ devices so you can quickly deploy upgraded infrastructure.

Nodegrid delivers vendor-neutral management, orchestration, and ZTP so you can upgrade network infrastructure with minimal business interruption.

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