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The Enterprise Network of the Future

Companies are adopting cloud, Big Data analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and mobility solutions to drive the business efficiencies that are necessary to meet evolving customer demands. As they move to these new IT models, however, many companies are challenged by the rigidity and complexity of their enterprise networks, which limit performance and time-to-market for applications and services.

Rather than offering a competitive advantage, legacy network architectures are an impediment to innovation and business growth. Companies must rethink their enterprise networks to support growth, deliver high service levels, reduce costs, and mitigate risk.

Future-Oriented Network Challenges

Building a future-oriented enterprise network requires that several critical challenges be addressed. Performance must meet expanding user data demands, and companies must integrate and manage disparate technical resources into comprehensive and efficient heterogeneous networks. In addition to delivering high performance and minimizing costs, future enterprise networks must be flexible, scalable, simple to manage, and secure.

Four fundamental requirements for building the network of the future are:

Flexibility Is Key to Future Networks

Networks were traditionally designed for speed over flexibility, but that will no longer suffice now that flexible cloud-based services have become the norm. To gain greater agility and flexibility, companies need to transform from traditional, static, equipment-centric network planning, deployment, and management to a dynamic, on-demand approach. This move will enable them to rapidly expand or change services to meet business demands.

Enterprise networks will need to dynamically respond to user demands for high-performance applications and rich media content on any device. By leveraging programmable switching/computing chips, companies will be able to support changing routing protocols and facilitate complex data processing without degrading network availability.

In addition, enterprises will move toward enhanced network virtualization capabilities so network resources can be deployed and managed on demand without physical access to switches or routers.

Network virtualization can accelerate agility for enterprises while simultaneously reduce the cost of managing network resources. This will ensure availability of business-critical applications and improve user experience.

Scalability to Meet New Business Demands

A future-oriented network puts user experience at the heart of the network by building and implementing user- and application-aware network management policies to overcome congestion and performance issues.

Future-ready enterprise networks must allow rapid deployment of IT services and applications to support business needs. At the same time, users want to connect to network resources from both wired and wireless devices.

To address these needs, the enterprise network must be able to scale efficiently to accommodate capacity needs within data centers, wide-area networks, campus networks, mobile Internet, the IoT, and other networks.

Simple, Efficient Network Management

With the increasing convergence of enterprise networks, mobile Internet, and IoT networks, companies need to enhance intelligence at the network’s edge. This will optimize data traffic flow and policy enforcement without compromising security or Quality of Service (QoS) and driving up costs.

With workloads constantly shifting, managing the entire enterprise network to ensure continuous availability of services and applications for the business requires intelligent solutions that enable real-time decision making while simplifying network management.

Agile network controllers will play a key role in simplifying network management by unifying network resources for optimized resource allocation, enabling faster deployments and troubleshooting across networks, services, and applications.

Creating Advanced Network Security

With the fast evolution of Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) attacks and changes in network and security architectures, network security management has become increasingly complex; yet, security is vital to protecting business, with no room for compromise.

Today’s enterprise must build a system that can monitor and respond to network security threats in real time to thwart increasingly sophisticated attacks and intrusions.

To tackle these evolving threats, more advanced and comprehensive network security approaches and technologies will be required, such as the following:

  • Sandbox-based APT detection
  • Unknown threat analysis, leveraging Big Data analytics
  • DDoS-based attack mode sharing

An NaaS Future

Future enterprise network architecture will be designed and built on a Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) model, which will deliver network services virtually, either through subscription or a ‘pay-as-you-use’ service model. Using NaaS, businesses can dynamically adapt to off-peak and peak demands.

NaaS can be achieved through agile network management, control, and policies. Technologies such as Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) are the primary virtualization-enabling network technologies of the future.

This flexible acquisition model will allow companies to add and allocate network resources on demand and respond rapidly and securely to evolving needs. In addition to significant cost advantages, NaaS will enhance network scalability, elasticity, simplicity, and security — shifting the enterprise network from a hindrance to an enabler of business growth and innovation.

By Chang Yue

Chief Architect, Enterprise Network Product Line, Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.