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SD-LANs And The (Rapidly Increasing) Evolution Of Networks

By Mathew Edwards in · Technology · January 19, 2017

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 results? Frustrated users, lost productivity, and serious security risks from relatively low-sophistication devices and an increased attack surface. In this series of posts, I discuss how SD-LAN, which expands on the principles of SDN and SD-WAN, addresses these issues.

For enterprises, the 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.

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 have 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 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 networking requirements, network designers find themselves constrained by the limitations of current networks:

1) 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.       

2) 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. 

3) 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 environment

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.

Enter SD-LANs

The Software-defined LAN (SD-LAN) expands on the principles of software-defined networks (SDN) and SD-WAN to increase wired and wireless access network adaptability, flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and scale, while also providing mission-critical business continuity.

I’ll be talking in a lot more detail about what SD-LAN in my next post.  

Mathew Edwards (@Mobility_Mat)

Mat is Senior Manager, Product Marketing at Aerohive where he helps drive strategy and vision for Aerohive's wireless LAN solutions.