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The network is a key component in the success of a modern Cloud ready and Edge Compute ready enterprise because it connects sensors, devices and users to business applications and services. A fast and reliable WAN service that connects all of an organization’s offices is no longer a luxury—it is crucial to business success. The productivity of a workforce can be attributed to and enhanced by the quality of the enterprise WAN network.

As the WAN has grown and become more important, the operational and financial challenges of operating the network have become more of a burden to organizations. The challenges of operating the WAN need to be addressed in a way that enhances not only performance and reliability, but also security, privacy, and compliance. A complete enterprise WAN network architecture can effectively address these growing challenges. Several trends in the enterprise have had an affect on complexity, network performance, and scale. The following sections cover these trends.

Centralized Cloud Data Centers

A first trend is centralized cloud data centers and the distribution of content. In the past, applications, data, and content were largely localized—users needed access to a local email server and database and could, for the most part, perform their duties without impacting the WAN.

Today, many enterprise applications and data are stored in either centralized data centers or in a hybrid cloud and accessed via constrained and often oversubscribed WAN links. This centralization of enterprise applications and data has strained the traditional model of WAN access, which was to provide low bandwidth and oversubscribed links to remote sites. The growth of bandwidth requirements, not only for connected devices but for business-critical applications, has led the enterprise to seek new ways to deal with the WAN and its design and performance.

Edge Compute

The second trend is edge compute driven by the need to lower application response times and the cost associated with sending data round-trip to a centralized cloud for every transaction. With the compute moving closer to the edge and closer to the consumer of data only the essential subset of data is sent to the centralized cloud for latency critical applications. This is not only driving bandwidth growth as traffic travels between the edge and the cloud, but also placing higher demands on WAN performance. This is leading enterprises to reconsider their WAN design.

Explosion of Internet–Connected Devices

The third trend is the explosion of Internet–connected devices. A decade ago, the enterprise needed to deal only with computers and other directly connected devices that were standardized and issued by the IT department. Today, every user has a smartphone, tablet, and laptop—often their own—that require an Internet connection. Each of these devices consumes a great deal of bandwidth and can impact network performance. While some enterprises ignore this traffic impact, the pressure to keep the workforce happy and productive has forced many enterprises to adopt a “bring-your-own-device” (BYOD) policy and use Wi-Fi and security policies to enable network access to all of a worker’s devices. Enterprises must build a network that can not only handle the bandwidth requirements of today’s devices, but also expand to handle the exponential growth in bandwidth consumption over the next 5 to 10 years.

Enterprises Needing to Operate as Service Providers

A final trend is the view that enterprises should operate like service providers, treating the organization as customers for their services and meeting high standards for service delivery. Treating large enterprises as a service provider poses great challenges to the traditional WAN designs and architectures.

Many companies choose to build completely private WAN clouds, while others look to build hybrid networks that give them control and management of strategic portions of the network instead of relying solely on an outside provider. This movement introduces a great deal of complexity, especially for the traditional model of remote site uplinks, and demands a new approach to privatizing the WAN. Enterprises that fit this mold are looking for ways to simplify the transition to a private WAN and need new architectures to support this transition all while increasing network performance and reliability.