IoT changing the network’s edge – Part 1

During a recent House of Lords debate, Martha Lane Fox claimed the UK has been “sleepwalking” through digital change and urged for more to be done to promote digital understanding. The pace of digital change is increasing. Enterprises need to adjust to keep up with rapidly changing technologies.

For many years, legacy network architecture was sufficient to meet business demands. Traditional networks essentially served as an internal resource to help operations run more efficiently, with assets, end users, and devices that were fixed in branch or store locations. These legacy networks existed and operated within four walls, and network responsibility ended at the switchport, says George Mulhern, CEO at Cradlepoint.

Driving change in the network

With digital transformation, these networks are being severely outgrown. Cloud, mobile and IoT are three of the macro trends fuelling this transformation, and the underlying enabler is pervasive connectivity. This is driving the need to transform the Wide Area Network (WAN) and giving rise to the ‘Connected Enterprise.’

A recent survey found that 97% of 1,000 IT decision makers agree that legacy network infrastructure will have difficulty keeping pace with the changing demands of the cloud and hybrid networks. As technology demands and mobile footprints grow, legacy systems no longer provide the flexibility, speed to deployment, and cost-effectiveness required for today’s Connected Enterprise.

Thus, the network itself is no longer solely an internal resource; it is both internal and external facing, and it is nonstop. Network and business needs have evolved, significantly changing enterprise network architecture. IT administrators simply cannot plan the way they used to, when legacy systems were meant for 200 branches with five people at each site. Today, the Connected Enterprise network extends far beyond its traditional boundaries.

Digital transformation and IoT

The use of connected devices has increased exponentially, with Gartner predicting that 8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2017, and will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. Enterprise networks will need to manage thousands of new endpoints.

Software-defined Networking (SDN) has become the new way to manage and keep a corporate network secure. It represents the most significant change to enterprise networking since the introduction of the Internet. It is not a single technology, but an umbrella concept covering various applications.

There are many of these technologies addressing the different network infrastructures that span from the data centre to the WAN edge. In the same way there are a variety of approaches to extending this to branch, mobile, and IoT networks.

Transforming the WAN

SDN fundamentally changes not just how networks are built and managed, but how they evolve. New functionality can be developed on a quicker software-based development time frame versus a relatively long hardware development time frame, while also making it possible to programmatically control the network from a central location.

George Mulhern

The Software-defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) brings together cloud, mobility, scalability and agility. The network can be programmatically controlled from a central location and network services – such as end-to-end Virtual Cloud Networks and secure cloud gateways – can be abstracted from the underlying infrastructure.

The enterprise network has changed significantly and for businesses of all sizes and across many industries, digital transformation is no longer something on the distant horizon. Before the benefits of this transformation can be widely realised, IT teams will need to transform the complex, constrained, and costly legacy WAN.

A new generation of WAN infrastructure technologies has emerged — including cloud management and orchestration, SDN, and advanced LTE — that enables elastic and economical WANs that provide pervasive connectivity across the enterprise and beyond.

The author of this blog is George Mulhern, CEO at Cradlepoint

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