The new look of enterprise networks – virtual, automated, cloudy, and smart Posted on April 20, 2017 by Tim Burke As I noted in my last post, the success of most enterprises increasingly depends on the ability to deliver a positive customer experience online – an experience that relies on reliable, high-performing digital network architectures with several key capabilities: Network virtualization, which decouples hardware and software, thus enabling services to run on any platform and enabling third-party applications to run over the network; Automation that provides an abstracted, simplified network platform to power speedier, less risky application and service rollouts as well as consistent policy enforcement, so IT staff can shift its focus from operations to business strategy and innovation; Cloud services with the on-demand scalability to ensure fast deployment and affordable support for broad partner ecosystems; and Analytics designed to extract patterns and insights from the troves of user, device, application, network, and threat data which the business can use to improve decision-making. Beyond manual provisioning Sounds great, but many enterprise network environments remain mired in manual provisioning, monitoring, and troubleshooting traditions as well as deployments conducted one point “solution” at a time and security still layered on too late. While offloading networking burdens to cloud services might seem like a good way to dodge the hassles of adapting your network to a world in which, by 2020, one million new devices will go online every hour, this strategy is impractical for all but the smallest organizations. Foundations of the new network architectures Which means you’ll end up having to pay attention to several key ways enterprise networking is evolving to meet looming new demands. Among them: Redesigned WANs. Software-defined WANs (SD-WANs) will augment or replace data center “demilitarized zones” with points-of-presence hosted in co-location facilities. SD-WANs thus avoid back-hauling cloud-destined traffic to the data center and then on to the internet. After that, look for end-to-end programmability and automated networking across domains. Shifting network programmability. Sustainable automated networking depends on device-level programmability – but controller-based network programmability is becoming important because it can impact much-needed network scalability and simplification. Scaling agility with network functions virtualization. By assigning CPU, SSL, memory, and interfaces to each virtual machine, network functions virtualization (NFV) permits networks to more easily provision, chain, and scale services (notably in networks supporting branches). Wi-fi integration. Billions of untethered users and devices are driving the integration of wireless and fixed network infrastructures. First up in wi-fi integration: voice-over-wi-fi – the transfer of mobile calls to a wi-fi network – and low-power wireless access (LPWA), which offers scalable solutions for low-cost, geographically dispersed sensors. In my next post, I’ll explore how innovations in enterprise networking are impacting the network edge – that critical link between your enterprise and your customers and the first line of defense against network threats.