Adoption of LTE & 5G by businesses & agencies is poised to overtake T1 connectivity The rise of wireless WAN is all around us. With hot topics such IoT, cloud, and 5G constantly swirling, we talk with thousands of businesses and public agencies that are looking to future-proof their network architecture. Still, many organizations want […]
Getting the right mix of 4G LTE & intelligent routing for WAN diversity
There are several facets of a comprehensive network. Simply connecting data sources is not enough to make you successful. Not only do you have to concern yourself with connectivity, but also just as critical to your platform are maintainability, reliability, security, and how you utilize both cloud and Edge computing.
You need to build in the right mix of 4G LTE and intelligent routing capabilities to provide the kind of flexibility that today’s network platforms require. Just as important, you need to align yourself with a business partner that looks to the future and works with you to constantly stay ahead of the curve. Let’s discuss the planks of the network platform that should be in place to provide the WAN diversity necessary for long-term success.
If we focus briefly on the retail customer experience, in the last two to three years a proliferation of devices have been invading stores and placed in the hands of extremely non-technical associates. For example:
- Digital Signage (mostly passive but rapidly moving to interactive)
- Tablet Computing
- Broader access to online inventory in remote locations
- Mobile POS Checkout
- Interactive devices providing “shoppable” magazines
- RFID antennas, readers and handheld equipment
- Bluetooth beacons and sensors
These devices require the need for consistent connectivity for business continuity. All of this new technology can, or will be delivering or accessing transactional information, not after the transaction is completed, but in the moment of the transaction. This information will transform and enhance the customer experience if properly integrated. The more these devices are counted upon for interacting with the customer, the more critical constant access becomes. Transactions will be conducted at the Edge of the network. There won’t be time to go back to the cloud for everything.
The above retail situation is essentially static, the mobile devices are moving in a relatively confined space. Now take into consideration a mobile site such as a delivery truck or a police car. Now the network changes and 4G LTE becomes a primary vehicle. The point here is that device and data requirements will be changing and you will need to provide as much diversity to your network as possible to accommodate those future requirements.
You have successfully deployed a mobile app for your associates in your store locations. They love it and it has had a positive impact on sales for the organization. So much so that you have had several complaints from different store associates that they have been in the middle of a transaction with a customer and the app stops working because the WAN has become inoperable. Now you’re affecting not only overall sales, but more importantly for the associate, potential commissions. Having the foresight to create an automatic intelligent failover to an alternative source of connectivity becomes a critical requirement. Obviously, the more your digital relationship with customers and associates is shaped and aided by the information that you provide at the moment of the transaction, the more reliable the network must be. To meet this requirement, organizations have successfully utilized a failover to 4G LTE. This also avoids phone calls to the network operations center that is already overloaded with trouble tickets.
No one will dispute that, since the advent of the Internet, security continues to be a major concern. Over the years, as different threat types have been identified, various solutions have been created to handle them. Security areas such as stateful firewall, VPN, gateway anti-virus, gateway anti-spam, intrusion prevention/intrusion detection, content filtering, bandwidth management, application control, and centralized reporting are basic features distributed enterprise require.
Today, Unified Threat Management (UTM) provides methodologies and systems to consolidate these requirements. UTM represents all-in-one security that now holds all the security features in one place, which can lead to better integration and throughput than with a collection of disparate devices.
So, you’ve connected all of your devices and multiple locations. You have a well-thought-out, well-executed plan. Wow, time to take a deep breath — but not so fast. What is your plan to monitor all of those devices? You certainly can’t expect those non-technical associates in remote locations to maintain your devices.
If you plan on expanding your footprint, the problem just becomes larger and larger. In the future, with the Internet of Things (IoT) and more intelligent devices, you should be preparing for proactive maintenance, not for break/fix maintenance. Your Wireless WAN (WWAN) should be maintained as a combination of central and remote resources. Plan how to maintain all those devices to assure maximum network consistency.
Cloud & Edge Computing
At the last Internet of Things (IoT) Forum participants identified that while the IoT may be at the top of the Gartner Hype Cycle, there is no doubt that it is gaining traction. In fact, two separate studies, one by Cisco and the other by GS1 (the standards organization) showed interesting statistics that there are varying degrees of adoption based upon industry. The Cisco study identified that the industries that were early adopters, manufacturing, transportation and energy, were at the bottom of the list of industries that could benefit the most from automating manual processes using the IoT, as identified in the GS1 study. Oil & Gas and retail took the top spots for benefits but are very slow adopters.
We say this to show that IoT is growing regardless of industry. Because of that growth, there will be more and more data to move to meet the needs of the new and changing customer experience. Because of this explosion of data, there will be a need for collection, analysis and processing of data at network endpoint. Cisco defines Edge or Fog computing as a paradigm that extends cloud computing and services to the Edge of the network. Similar to cloud, Edge provides data, compute, storage, and application services to end-users.
Allowing for the steady forward progression of the IoT, it is imperative that organizations prepare a cloud/Edge strategy that incorporates network flexibility.
A comprehensive network platform must encompass all of the planks that we have just discussed. Let’s summarize:
- Connectivity – Device and data requirements will be changing, will you incorporate as much diversity to your network as possible to accommodate those future requirements?
- Reliability – Will a failover system to guarantee uninterrupted service to all devices and employees be part of your network strategy?
- Security – Have you secured your Unified Threat Management strategy to maximize security while at the same time minimizing resources — including people, hardware, and software — required to achieve a consistent security posture into the future?
- Maintainability/Scalability – As intelligent devices proliferate your network, will you be prepared to provide proactive maintenance to those devices to maintain maximum network consistency?
- Cloud & Edge Computing — With the need to extend cloud computing and services to the edge of the network, will you have a cloud/Edge strategy that incorporates the appropriate network flexibility?
Is your network ready to support the diversity of customer demands and device proliferation being created by omnichannel shopping and the Internet of Things?
The converging wired and wireless worlds, along with best-in-breed cloud management applications, are offering ultimate network flexibility allowing for greater security, ease-of-management, and cost savings at the Edge.