This article was originally posted on Forbes – check it out here.
The cloud has become the new norm, and as businesses continue to virtualize their infrastructure, new technologies are evolving to keep up with the change. Sadly, the network is one of the last things to be brought into the 21st century. Twenty years ago, companies began to rely on MPLS networks and private connections that gave them the opportunity to communicate with their locations across the world. The downside is that it made it near impossible to operate with today’s cloud-based business models.
Today, the data center, SaaS applications and virtualization have all dominated the various facets of an organization. MPLS lost steam when it was no longer able to keep up with the usage demand that each location required. The emergence of SD-WAN at the edge solved for a number of things, including unstable networks, poor connectivity and jitter for customers connecting back to their cloud platforms. It made the cloud more accessible by ensuring better performance and a class of service that MPLS or internet alone couldn’t provide. However, customers are demanding their networks continue to evolve.
Enter the next steps in edge networking:
The internet of things (IoT) has already taken the consumer world by storm but has generated some massive implications for enterprise businesses as well. As every individual continues to increase their number of connected devices, organizations are in need of ways to mitigate risk and handle the new connections coming into the network.
Managing your network to handle the new stream of data coming in can require bandwidth considerations, edge upgrades and configurations within your data center. Upgrades can include updating licensing and hardware, adding bandwidth to handle the higher amount of traffic and lessening the impact to the network or working with new solutions that allow for simpler configuration and higher flexibility.
As an area of networking that is projected to grow to over $11.6 billion by next year, virtual network services is the latest development in an SD-WAN world. VNF allows us to stop being reliant on so much hardware at the edge. Today’s enterprise is highly distributed, spanning hundreds and thousands of locations, with each location having its own configuration and hardware onsite. VNFs allow customers to have more flexibility at each of their branch locations to configure each one individually yet manage them in a single location.
Virtual networks services are becoming the new standardized way to operate in today’s enterprise. SD-WAN revolutionized the WAN, and now VNF platforms are revolutionizing the entire edge, taking it from a once siloed location and bringing it into the network with its own configurations.
MANO is the layer of management and orchestration that accompanies VNF to give the user a platform to operate their network. As a critical piece to the puzzle, MANO opens the door to better flexibility through integrations. It can simplify the addition of new OSS/BSS components to a network that may otherwise call for endless work and reconfiguration in the old way of doing things.
The New Edge Network
The mobile device industry brought the always-available application store that meets the customer where they are at any time of day and for any need. Soon enough, the aforementioned tools will take edge IT into the modern world and allow IT managers to make immediate decisions for things like firewalls, SD-WAN solutions and WAN optimization and bring better business operations to their organization immediately.
There are a few ways that enterprises can begin to move down the path of virtualizing their edge, such as identifying vendors that align with their existing edge goals — whether that be around consolidating functions at the edge, upgrading to better performance or creating more flexibility as their needs change over the years. Find a provider who is able to handle new technologies, plan for that “I need to switch to a vendor” conversation and offer suggestions based on the business’s needs versus just its own offerings.
The edge is going virtual. In two years from now, enterprises will expect all of their edge services — firewalls, SD-WAN, switches, WAN optimization — to be housed in a single location that they can click into at a moment’s notice. The cloud brought that simplicity to infrastructure, and the network is now playing catchup.