The elastic edge of the new age network

Today’s chief information officer (CIO) is a guide to the business on the implications of Digital Transformation, which is impacting organisations of all sizes and in every sector at an unprecedented scale and pace.

CIOs are managing this transformation, which will improve operational efficiencies, help capitalise on new opportunities, and enable faster responses to changing market conditions and competitive pressures.

>See also: Forget self-driving cars: make way for the self-driving WAN

The Internet of Things (IoT) is also creating new digital business models and ecosystems. IoT will provide companies with new insight into their business operations, as well as their engagement with customers, partners and suppliers. Organisations will need the ability to act on this insight quickly if they are to use it to drive growth, profitability and efficiencies.

The out-dated WAN

The new Connected Enterprise, which extends far beyond the bricks-and-mortar branches of the past, demands a new way of thinking. Digital Transformation will help the Connected Enterprise thrive.

But this requires a level of IT transformation that supports expanded public cloud workloads and applications, pervasive connectivity across the whole enterprise, and increased security for network traffic shifting away from private intranets and onto the public Internet.

This is placing huge pressure on Wide Area Network (WAN) connectivity, performance, and uptime requirements. The traditional WAN set-up is dead. The price and performance attributes of WAN services have not obeyed Moore’s Law and until recently, there has been little in the way of fundamental innovation. Digital transformation requires WAN transformation. To meet the needs of the new Connected Enterprise, the legacy WAN needs to be transformed to become more secure, elastic and reliable.

A recent Cradlepoint study suggests a lack of WAN readiness to support these changes. 77 per cent of IT decision-makers said their top concerns were WAN bandwidth limitations, reliability, and cost. CIOs know that these are the central tenants in the adoption of cloud, mobile, and IoT.

Competing in the new age

To compete successfully in the next stage of the digital revolution, organisations will need to re-engineer highly centralised enterprise WANs to create a new network model designed to put cloud, mobility, scalability and agility first.

>See also: Use the Internet as your WAN

A range of new and evolving technologies have emerged to facilitate the necessary WAN transformation and unify connectivity throughout the whole Connected Enterprise. Cloud-based management and orchestration, Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), Software-defined Perimeter (SD-Perimeter), and advancements in the cost and capabilities of LTE services, mean organisations can construct the self-optimising and self-healing WAN of the future. These technologies provide pervasive and elastic connectivity at significantly lower capital and operating cost per endpoint. This will be the toolset for the CIO architects of the digitally transformed WAN.

The edge of tomorrow

Corporate boundaries now extend far beyond the four walls of the enterprise, and are becoming more fluid and elastic every day. They now incorporate mobile workers, vehicles, pop-up and temporary networks, kiosks, cameras and sensors, to name just a few. Organisations need a WAN with an Elastic Edge – one that effortlessly expands, contracts and stretches to connect any new endpoint, wherever that may be.

The traditional branch-centric WAN was never designed to cope with these demands. Highly complex and inflexible, a traditional WAN often inhibits business agility. Increasingly, organisations are looking to a Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) model, where connections can be spun up and down, whenever and wherever they are needed. In this model, organisations can move away from a traditional build-your-own, fixed location network, to a model that can be designed to individual requirements and billed on a ‘pay for what you use’ basis.

>See also: The elevator to cloud IT: SD-WAN is crucial

A secure network can be created in minutes – managed from a single pane of glass – using SD-WAN and SD-Perimeter to ensure safety and security. The Elastic Edge this offers is programmed to deliver networking efficiency and is primed for future technology shifts like fast evolving 5G, cellular technology.

LTE, and soon 5G, will provide the performance, cost and agility profile that make them a no brainer for the enterprise WAN. It happened for the Local Area Network (WLAN), it is happening for the Personal Area Network (PAN, e.g. Bluetooth) and it will happen for all the same reasons for the WAN.

In many ways, the WAN is the ‘lifeline’ connecting the enterprise to the branches, things and mobile workers that drive its business. In the fast paced digital economy, a wired WAN will increasingly be more of a ‘leash’ than a ‘lifeline’.

On-demand networking

Maintaining a continued pace of innovation will be crucial for ongoing digital transformation. Organisations will need to accelerate the evolution of their WANs, enabling highly converged cloud and network infrastructures at the WAN Edge that feature the elasticity needed to deliver flexible and instant connection services, as well as on-demand delivery capabilities.
Shifting to an Elastic Edge makes it easy for Connected Enterprises to rapidly deploy and connect people, capacity and resources.

>See also: Accelerating branch office operations with SD-WANs

It will also pave the way for the transition to a utility-based ‘network on-demand’ consumption model that makes it possible to switch on availability and services almost instantaneously.

Digital transformation is the next stage in the digital revolution, and it is already well underway. Nobody knows this better than today’s CIO, but before this can be realised, the complex, constrained, and costly legacy WAN needs addressing.


Sourced by George Mulhern, CEO at Cradlepoint


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...