- Users—and that category increasingly includes IoT devices—don’t care whether they are on a wired, wireless or mobile network.
- This paper discusses the new approach required for designing, building and managing networks for this new era.
- In today’s environment the campus network must take on three roles.
Digital disruption is the new normal. Organizations of all sizes in all industries are embracing digital technologies to meet the needs of a changing workplace and customer base. Mobility, the internet of things (IoT), cloud computing, big data, social media and digital transformation are prime catalysts for this new era. Taken together, they deliver a message that is clear and powerful: There is no more business as usual these days.
That characterization—no more business as usual—also applies to the underlying networks that support and enable this new era. Legacy network architectures built for the client-server era were not designed to meet the needs of today’s mobile/IoT/cloud-enabled organizations and their customers. Where do they fall short? Practically everywhere: Performance, visibility, agility, bandwidth, security and complexity.
Users—and that category increasingly includes IoT devices—don’t care whether they are on a wired, wireless or mobile network: They care that they have unfettered and secure access at any time from any location using any device, with zero tolerance for downtime, latency or any other gaps affecting their ability to do what they want, when they want to do it.
For network strategists, architects and IT administrators that means a new approach to building networks for now and the future. They need to eliminate the divide between wireless and wired and manage the network as one. They need to embrace innovations in automation, intelligence and security to empower today’s digital workplace and address the needs of a digital customer base that is more demanding than ever before.
This paper discusses the new approach required for designing, building and managing networks for this new era. We look at advances and innovations in network design and architecture that fulfill the goals of this new approach. We also examine two organizations that have leveraged technologies to successfully transform their networks and thereby transform their businesses. Finally, we look at specific products and solutions that deliver this new approach to networking.
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Why a New Networking Approach is Needed
The architecture of most campus networks was defined in the client server era, when the primary need was to increase wired access speeds and internet work more locations. Today’s challenges are much different.
Mobility has changed the nature of access, requiring support for multiple devices per person with unpredictable locations, new traffic patterns, unknown devices on the network and a more sophisticated threat landscape without a trusted perimeter. Cloud computing has also changed the nature of applications toward centralized architectures, shifting user application traffic from client-server to app-cloud.
In today’s environment the campus network must take on three roles:
- IoT gateway
- Wireless backhaul
The old client-server model is ill-equipped to handle all of these roles, and is particularly brittle in the core of the network. In modernizing the campus network, strategists and architects need to focus on three key areas:
- Visibility: Network visibility is more challenging than ever. Organizations are increasingly turning to expensive overlays to mirror traffic—yet they are still struggling to keep up. Inevitably this approach fails to provide real-time comprehensive visibility. IT managers need to know: “What is happening on my network right now?” And even more challenging: “What has been happening on my network and should I worry?”
- Troubleshooting: Once the network can provide deeper visibility, the next step is to aid the troubleshooting process. The network needs to do more than connect what is happening to where and why it is happening. It should provide intelligent insight to questions such as: “If our videoconferencing service has poor quality, what else is going wrong at the same time?” And, “When was the last configuration change?”
- Automation: Automating network tasks is a common objective for network teams in their efforts to lower costs, increase agility, reduce risk, accelerate time to value and improve security. Campus network administrators are still manually stitching together service set identifiers (SSIDs), virtual LANs (VLANs), virtual routing and forwarding (VRF) and quality of service policies, which requires resources and is prone to human error. Networking experts spend too much time on these “keep the lights on” functions, and not enough time on the problems of business efficiency, IoT enablement and digital transformation. Automation requires full programmability, easy integration with industry-standard tools and a readiness for the modern world of microservices.