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3 ways the Elastic Edge is changing connected enterprise architecture

Ian Pennel

Software-defined, next-generation WAN connects fixed locations, IoT, remote users & more

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.

Legacy networks existed and operated within four walls, and network responsibility ended at the switchport. One WAN connection was sufficient, especially given the common topology of a manufacturing plant, distribution center, or headquarters building.

However, as organizations’ technology needs and mobile footprint have grown, legacy systems no longer provide the flexibility, speed to deployment, and cost-effectiveness required for today’s Connected Enterprise.

As networks and business needs have evolved, so has the Network’s Edge. The new Edge — the Elastic EdgeSM — is software-defined, policy-driven, and highly orchestrated to reduce network complexity. It also is significantly changing enterprise network architecture in three key ways:

Expanded Functionality

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. Marketing may be using it for digital signage at the same time that the accounting department is using it for financial services.

The network itself is no longer solely an internal resource; it is both internal and external facing, and it is nonstop.

With this increased functionality comes an ever-expanding Elastic Edge as well. IT administrators simply can’t 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.

Increased Agility

Whereas legacy networks and the traditional Network’s 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.

With fixed locations, companies need a Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN). LTE-Integrated SD-WAN solutions maximize wireless and wired broadband to give the best capacity and help reduce costs.

In-vehicle and mobile locations must now be optimized for LTE, usually through multiple LTE links. It is increasingly critical for enterprises to utilize SD-WAN capabilities for these applications to optimize and use LTE links as efficiently as possible. The Elastic Edge of the network needs this kind of agility in order to accommodate current, emerging, and future enterprise needs.

Cloud-Based, Software-Defined Management

Because the network is no longer fixed, users can be located anywhere. Work has become a thing people do, not just a place people go. Devices need to be brought onto a company’s network to ensure employees and services can operate and meet customer demands without being bound to fixed locations.

Thus, today’s network really should be connected, protected, extremely agile, automated, and managed from a single pane of glass.

In coordinating people and the IoT, networks need security that can expand beyond traditional brick-and-mortar boundaries and that remains intact regardless of where or how those users and devices are connecting. Software-Defined Perimeter (SD-P) solutions such as NetCloud Perimeter, for example, 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’re 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 organizations to support people, places, and things. From SD-WAN solutions for fixed locations to SD-P solutions for IoT and remote users, network architecture will never be the same.

Learn More

Read more about the possibilities of SD-WAN in our white paper.