By 2020, at least 20 billon devices will be connected to the Internet of Things—and many analysts predict twice that number. Whether it’s 20 billion, or even 50 billion, that’s a lot of devices weighing down static networks and impeding performance.
For organizations, it’s not as simple as limiting connections. In today’s business world, the connections and flexibility afforded by mobile devices are essential.
But as more and more devices connect to your company network, unintended consequences follow: inconsistent wireless coverage; failed connections to employee, guest, and customer devices; staggered performance when accessing media-rich content; and unmanaged network access. Many companies are finding their legacy wireless LAN unable to run real-time applications, while others desperately need an easier way to handle the growing volume of BYOD, guest, and IoT devices that require access and authentication from the corporate network.
The (rapidly increasing) evolution of access networks
For most of the networking world’s history, evolution came through hardware and software innovation. Now, software is driving dramatic changes in networking. More aspects of our environment are digital, mobility is transforming lives, people are more connected than ever, and societal and global trends are contributing to the formation of a new software-defined world.
For enterprises, this mobile connectivity trend is redefining business processes and productivity. So expanding your wireless LAN is, or should be, a top investment priority. However, with the increased pace of change driven by mobility and a wireless-first world, it is becoming increasingly difficult for vendors to meet demands without a complete rethink of network architecture approaches overall.
Key computing trends driving the need for a new network paradigm:
Changing traffic patterns—Applications that commonly access geographically distributed databases and servers through public and private clouds require extremely flexible traffic management and access to bandwidth on demand.
The consumerization of IT—The BYOD trend requires flexible and secure networks.
The rise of cloud services—Users expect on- demand access to applications, infrastructure, and other IT resources.
“Big data” means more bandwidth—Handling today’s mega data-sets requires massive parallel processing that is fueling a constant demand for additional capacity and any-to-any connectivity.
Security in the Internet of Things —The only way to adequately secure IoT devices is through granular identity and a software-defined approach to security keys.
Given the explosive proliferation of devices throughout the network, IT departments must be able to build an intelligent infrastructure. This infrastructure must continuously adjust and adapt to keep up with the pace of change that mobility and IoT has created and provide reliable access and security to maintain business integrity. Because IoT provides such a large attack surface, adequate security measures through granular identity and a software-defined approach to security keys is vital. Scalability to support this influx of devices is also essential because it enables organizations to grow seamlessly without making major changes to the network, which can be complex and costly.
But in trying to meet today’s dynamic networking requirements, network designers find themselves constrained by the limitations of current networks:
- Complexity that leads to stasis—Adding or moving devices and implementing network-wide policies are complex, time-consuming, and primarily manual endeavors that risk service disruption, discouraging network changes.
- Limited scale—Traditional wireless LAN architectures rely on a centralized controller that has limited capacity, requiring additional components to be acquired as more access points are introduced. This becomes increasingly complex across distributed sites.
- Vendor dependence—Lengthy vendor hardware product cycles and a lack of standard, open interfaces limit the ability of network operators to tailor the network to their individual environments.
Unfortunately, the traditional, static way of designing, deploying, and operating access networks doesn’t allow the network—or your IT team—to keep up with the dynamic pace of today’s connected world. There has to be a better way.
To understand SD-LAN, let’s first backtrack a bit and look at the architecture and technologies that led to SD-LAN.
Software-defined networking (SDN) is an emerging architecture that decouples the network control and forwarding functions, enabling network control to become directly programmable and the underlying infrastructure to be abstracted for applications and network services.
This allows network engineers and administrators to respond quickly to changing business requirements because they can shape traffic from a centralized console without having to touch individual devices. It also delivers services to where they’re needed in the network, without regard to what specific devices a server or other device is connected to.4 Functional separation, network virtualization, and automation through programmability are the key technologies.
But SDN has two obvious shortcomings: It’s really about protocols rather than operations, staff, and end-user-visible features, function, and capabilities; and it has relatively little impact at the access layer (intermediary and edge switches and access points, in particular)—critical elements that define wireless LAN today.
SD-LAN builds on the principles of SDN in the data center and SD-WAN to bring specific benefits of adaptability, flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and scale to wired and wireless access networks— while providing mission-critical business continuity to the network access layer. It is an applicationand policy-driven architecture that unchains hardware and software layers while creating self-organizing and centrally managed networks that are simpler to operate, integrate, and scale.
How SD-LAN is changing the LAN landscape
Just how can SD-LAN help your organization—how do its specific features specifically serve your needs?
By basing core implementations and policies in software, network shops can realize enhanced configurability, scalability, continuity, and simplified operations while unlocking value beyond connectivity.
- Increased operational efficiency
- Reducing capital and operational cost
- Increased scale and flexibility
- Granular network protection
- Value beyond connectivity
In summary, SD-LAN offers the following benefits:
- Reduced complexity—Automation, policy, and simplicity are applied to operations, bringing big savings in cost, improved reliability, and much more.
- Reduced costs—Going beyond improved productivity of your IT team, SD-LAN makes the networks themselves smarter and uses control and management tools to simplify network administrators’ lives.
- App visibility and control—SD-LAN is a source of data for analytics, such as understanding what apps are doing on the network. SD-LAN can then use this information in conjunction with policies to tune app behavior automatically.
- Policy-based management—It’s significantly easier to change policies in SD-LAN than it is to whip out the CLI, as well as more cost-effective, reliable, and secure.
- Improved reliability—Implementations can proactively deal with reliability issues and network emergencies.
- Improved security—Traffic monitoring with customized signatures for IoT app traffic that provides app visibility and control right at the firewall on the access point, and a unique identity for each device.
- Easy scalability—SD-LAN techniques can mitigate expensive OpEx. And SD-LANs may soon be able to produce proactive maintenance messages, limiting installation to assuring building codes are met and plugging in a cable. The remaining configuration, management, and tuning will be automatic. The software- and policy-based nature of SD-LAN makes it easy to add new features.
Without a doubt, SD-LAN offers a strong solution to help your organization keep pace with the dynamic, constantly changing network demands brought on by surging mobility and the Internet of Things.
With SD-LAN, Aerohive has built softwaredriven intelligence into every aspect of access networks, including:
- Application visibility and control
- Context-based policies
- Distributed-access infrastructure
- Next-generation cloud management
- Applications and insights