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Transformation That Is Inevitable For Enterprise Networks

Today’s enterprise networks struggle to keep up with the speed of business, which is impacted by the number of users and devices on the network; bandwidth-intensive voice, video, and cloud applications; and new Wi-Fi standards that will only continue to strain enterprise core and aggregation infrastructure. A new switch is needed for this new era, and increasingly, enterprises are looking toward 100GbE (Gigabyte Ethernet).

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), enterprises are looking to upgrade their Ethernet switching infrastructure to ensure the network does not become an inhibitor to digital transformation. Increasingly they’ll look to 100GbE platforms.

Enterprise networks are under pressure. The past decade has seen the rise and mainstream adoption of what IDC calls 3rd Platform technologies, including demands for ubiquitous mobile connectivity, increased reliance on cloud-based applications for mission-critical services, and the Internet of Things. Enterprises are looking to digitally transform themselves to embrace these new technologies, but too often legacy networks struggle to meet the demands of the technologies. Digital transformation, therefore, is spurring enterprise network transformation and accelerated adoption of new infrastructure platforms.

As enterprises upgrade their networks, they are looking for a set of core features. These features include simplicity of management, extensibility, flexibility, integrated security, and the ability to future proof investments to meet the demands of the business today and prepare the network for the next decade of use cases.

Enterprise Network Pain Points

Myriad factors are converging to strain today’s enterprise networks. These factors fall into a handful of buckets, but perhaps the most prominent is scale. More users and devices are on the network than ever before — a trend that will continue to expand rapidly. It’s not uncommon for workers and guests to connect multiple devices to the enterprise network, all utilizing network resources simultaneously. In addition to the ever-expanding number of devices taxing network resources, applications are becoming more challenging to support. For example, the increased use of bandwidth-intensive applications, such as video collaboration platforms, continues to load the network with data-intensive traffic, which then must be supported with wired infrastructure. New advancements in technology standards will only exacerbate this issue. The introduction of Wi-Fi 6 is set to further increase the speed and efficiency of wireless traffic within the enterprise, enabling myriad new use cases but simultaneously placing further strain on the network.

To keep pace with these advancements, enterprises have been on a multiyear journey transitioning from Gigabit to multi-Gigabit Ethernet at the access layers and to 40GbE and 100GbE at the aggregation and core layers. This trend is forecast to continue for the coming years.

Priorities for a Next-Generation Network

To address the challenges posed by modern business demands, enterprise network transformation is underway. The transition from Gigabit to multi-Gigabit infrastructure continues, and a macro shift toward standardizing on fixed form-factor switches is taking hold. Networks are collapsing from three-tier to two-tier, datacenter-like leaf and spine architectures, which allow for linear scaling while providing the ability to reuse existing fiber.

Challenges

The enterprise network market is a competitive landscape. Many enterprises have not standardized on a single infrastructure vendor for all layers of their enterprise network. Consequently, there is often a heterogeneous environment of access, aggregation, and core switching technologies. The ability of Ruckus ICX 7850 to support heterogeneous infrastructure environments is beneficial to enterprises, but Ruckus will be challenged by legacy networking vendors that have existing footprints in the enterprise. This presents both an opportunity and a challenge for Ruckus as the company has the necessary components to compete with other vendors and offer enterprises a full-scale portfolio of enterprise network infrastructure.

Enterprises have a handful of priorities as they explore network transformation efforts. Important elements of this next-generation infrastructure stack include the following:

» Organizations need support for the latest speeds and feeds. Often, 10GbE core switches are insufficient for many enterprise networks, leading organizations to consider 25GbE, 40GbE, and 100GbE platforms.

» As new infrastructure platforms are deployed, security is a top-of-mind concern. Modern switching platforms should support 128- or 256-bit MACsec encryption and have fine-grained security controls related to DHCP snooping, dynamic ARP inspection, protection against denial-of-service attacks, and MAC address locking, offering multiple layers of security.

» Availability and extensibility are important traits. Highly resilient designs with hitless failover, in-service software upgrades (ISSUs), and redundant, hot-swappable power supplies and fans are increasingly important for enterprise buyers.

» Enterprise buyers are increasingly looking for management platforms that integrate wired and wireless controls for onboarding, authentication, user and device access and usage policies, as well as centralized visibility, monitoring, and analytics.

» Enterprises are looking to tailor networks to meet their specific needs. Modern enterprise network infrastructure components should, therefore, be stackable, scalable, and flexible. Stackable core and aggregation switches increase capacity and facilitate centralized management and do not have to be located in the same place.

» Data has become the currency of modern business, and modern network infrastructure platforms can play a vital role in helping organizations collect analytics on what is happening in their environments. This aids in reviewing historical trends and predicting future use as well as gaining insights into the types of applications that users and devices are currently using on the network and what they’re using the network for. Gaining insights into customers and guests on the network has the potential to create new revenue opportunities. These use cases all require an advanced analytics collection and analysis platform.

» In recent years, there’s been a rise in cloud-based network management platforms that enable organizations to centrally control, monitor, and analyze their enterprise networks from a cloud-based platform. This option is typically used by organizations that have a lean IT staff or a widely distributed set of campus environments that need to be centrally managed.

» One of the advantages of a cloud-based network management platform is the ability to migrate from a CAPEX to an OPEX purchasing model, paying only for the amount of network management capacity required. Increasingly, vendors are offering this pay-as-you-go model for on-premises-managed platforms as well.

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