In the Part 1 of the article, George Mulhern stated that Software-defined Networking (SDN) is the biggest paradigm shift in enterprise networking, possibly since the Internet, and that one of its most prominent changes is the transformation of the Wide Area Network (WAN).
The traditional approach to networking cannot support the new Connected Enterprise. Work is no longer a place you go, but rather a thing that you do from wherever you are and on whatever device you choose. IoT is poised to make up the largest constituency of endpoints in the coming years. Rather than fixed, the network Edge is now in motion. It is an ‘Elastic Edge’ – moving and changing to reflect the needs of the Connected Enterprise, says George Mulhern, CEO at Cradlepoint.
The Elastic Edge
This shift presents numerous challenges, but a combination of new and evolving technologies has emerged to facilitate the necessary WAN transformation. Cloud-based management and orchestration, Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), and advancements in the cost and capabilities of LTE services are facilitating a new unified approach to the Connected Enterprise network.
Together, these technologies allow enterprises to build self-optimising and self-healing WANs that provide pervasive and elastic connectivity at significantly lower capital and operating cost per endpoint. In contrast to how traditional networks operate — in which they were primarily the concern of the IT department — network functionality now involves every part of a company.
With this increased functionality comes an ever-expanding Elastic Edge. 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 Internet of Things (IoT) is quickly extending a business, its employees, and its services well beyond the traditional Network’s Edge.
Whereas legacy networks and the traditional Network Edge stopped at the end of a building and were primarily needed only during traditional hours, the Elastic Edge is in a constant state of fluctuation. It expands, contracts, moves, adapts, and evolves as business needs dictate. A company’s busy hours can occur anytime, and seasonal and quarterly changes can have an impact on network use as well. Due to the flexibility of the modern workforce, today’s network needs to be connected, protected, extremely agile, automated, and managed from a single pane of glass.
From fragile to agile
The traditional WAN set-up is expensive and bandwidth constrained, due in part to the historical reliance on multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) circuits to provide deterministic performance of branch applications. SD-WAN alleviates this dependency by combining multiple low-cost and high-performance Internet broadband links – including more cost-effective connectivity such as 4G LTE – into a hybrid WAN edge that uses real-time policy and orchestration with intelligent path selection to provide continuously optimised application performance.
But bandwidth is only half of the WAN cost equation. The other is WAN complexity – the growing number of people required to keep it running and the slowing effect it is having on business agility. Traditional WANs have evolved to the point of paralysing complexity. Even minor changes take weeks, if not months, to implement. SDN transforms the WAN from fragile to agile, making it cloud-like in terms of flexibility and elasticity by employing cloud management, orchestration, and automation capabilities.
In co-ordinating mobile people and IoT devices, the network needs security that can expand beyond traditional brick-and-mortar boundaries and remain intact regardless of where or how users and devices are connecting. Software-defined Perimetre (SD-P) solutions enable enterprises to securely leverage the public Internet via a dark cloud.
A private IP address space renders the entire network dark to any hackers. IT managers can remotely and instantly grant a staff member access to only the resources he or she needs, and likewise with IoT devices — limiting unnecessary cross talk between people and things.
Additional services, such as firewalls and IPS/IDS, can be added to the network as well. All of these solutions can be orchestrated and managed from the cloud, whether they are being applied in a fixed location, a mobile location, in a vehicle, via IoT applications, or through a traveling employee.
The Elastic Edge calls for a next-generation WAN that allows organisations to support every network endpoint. From SD-WAN solutions for fixed locations to SD-P solutions for IoT and remote users, businesses need to be thinking about the toolset that will bring their network into the new connected age.
The author of this blog is George Mulhern, CEO at Cradlepoint