How to get started with a network consolidation project?

 

As more systems become IP-based, additional distributed assets need connecting and greater levels of data require transmitting, consolidating all your applications onto one network can bring a range of benefits to your organization.   

Here are our tips on how to get started: 

 

1) Internal Research 

This first phase is all about collecting information.  Until you have a clear line of sight of where your company is heading, how much budget is available and who you need to get on board, you will struggle to make progress with network consolidation. 

Speak to all the affected business units to a) understand which applications they will be running and their needs in terms of data capacity, latency rates and network availability and b) secure their support in a major modernization project.  

 

2) Identify Vendors 

Once you have a better understanding of your organization’s needs, your budget, and which applications you will need to run over an upgraded network, you can start to identify vendors with solutions which appear to suit your organization.  Some of your best resources will be out in the industry and your industry colleagues may be only too happy to give you tips or advice on how to avoid the pitfalls.  

Read up on Field Area Network and SCADA Communications case studies to find out what solutions others are using and, if you’re not already a member, join industry organizations like UTC and EPRI to obtain ideas from forums and resource libraries.

 

3) Distribute a Request for Information 

Pull together an outline of your needs and send an RFI to the vendors you have identified.  This process will help you clarify your shortlist of vendors who can offer you solutions which more closely meet your requirements.   As part of this process, you will need to summarize your organization’s needs, the available spectrum you have (or intend to have) and the applications you intend to run.  Find out what each vendor proposes and the reasons why they propose that solution.   

 

4) Testing 

If applicable, ask your shortlist of vendors to provide you with test equipment to allow you to set up a bench or lab test.  By subjecting equipment from different vendors to the same tests, you will have a better understanding of real-world performance versus quoted peak performance rates.  Key metrics to test are:

  • bandwidth
  • latency and jitter
  • software protocols used
  • serial to IP conversion
  • configuration – both remote and local (to see how smoothly the equipment will run for your operators)
  • ability to send large files simultaneously

 

5) Distribute a Request for Proposal 

Following the testing phase, you will then need to write an RFP which gives a detailed summary of your requirements and asks a series of comprehensive questions of the vendor.  Some organizations will use a consultancy to write and manage the RFP process for them whereas others will keep this process in-house.   Click here to see a list of suggested topics to be included in an RFP.  

 

6) Determine price vs value gained 

Following the RFP process, you will have pricing information provided by your shortlisted vendors which will allow you to work out the cost to roll out each vendor’s solution.  From that information you can then determine the cost savings you can make.  These savings may occur directly (such as through the replacement of leased lines, resulting in a cessation of monthly lease fees) but may also be a bit more abstract via a boost in workflow efficiency or a reduction in losses.    

It’s at this point with all the information gathered that your organization can take the next step of selecting your vendor and kicking off the project deployment with a pilot project. 

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As demonstrated, consolidating to one network will require time and effort in the research phase plus buy-in from multiple levels of your organization.  However, the resulting business transformation has the potential to impact employees throughout the organization in addition to improving grid reliability.

 

To download a pdf of topics to include in an RFP, please enter your details here:

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