Dumb Plumbing Doesn’t Cut it

Dan DeBacker

For many years the role of Ethernet connectivity has continued to be commoditized. They’re just ports to plug into or a way to attach wirelessly for access to the network. The vendor battles were about speeds and feeds and decisions normally came down to cost per port as it’s very difficult to differentiate one Gigabit port from another. On top of this, the consumer market drove the cost down even further for those hubs, switches and access points that now occupy just about every household. I can go online or into any electronics store and see these offerings for $50 or less, so why should Enterprises look to anything else? It’s just providing dumb connectivity.

The old cliché “you get what you pay for” can be applied to this thought process. We surely can provide dumb connectivity at the network edge; however, when looking at the future of business communications, we see this is no longer going to be sufficient. The network is the enabler for business applications, collaboration and a tool to gain a competitive advantage in the market. Trying to roll out new services and applications quickly, eliminating human error mistakes in configurations and becoming more efficient in the use of precious manpower resources will force Enterprises to re-think the network strategy.

There are three shifts happening in the realm of networking and edge connectivity. First, the edge of the network is becoming unified. Whether attaching via a wired or wireless connection, the end user experience must be consistent. Users don’t want to or need to care about how they attach, only that they attach easily, seamlessly and have access to their applications. The second shift is the BYOD (bring your own device) phenomenon. So not only do the users want to attach seamlessly, they also want to attach with any device; laptop, smart phone, tablet, etc. The third shift is around security and secure connectivity. Enterprises must be much more vigilant in protecting assets, intellectual property and sensitive information. Sarbanes Oxley, HIPPA/PHI, and PCI are well known examples of regulatory compliance that most Enterprises must deal with. In many cases the wireless network has some form of security, but most wired networks are wide open.

So how do we accommodate these edge requirements? It’s not with dumb plumbing, that I can assure you. Instead, it’s by creating an Intelligent Edge. By moving intelligence closer to the user, the network can become “smarter,” deliver more services quicker and be easier to manage. Let’s take out the complexity of having to worry about BYOD, wired/wireless and security. This becomes inherent when creating an intelligent, policy-enabled edge that authenticates every device, every user and the applications being accessed. By doing this, the network administrator no longer has to worry about manual provisioning for different users or devices. This implicitly solves the BYOD issue. The network will profile (fingerprint) the BYOD device and based on policies in place will automatically provision the appropriate network connectivity. All of this with no intervention required from IT. The edge is unified, so access is truly seamless regardless if it’s wired or wireless. It becomes a consistent access for the end user and it becomes a single network to manage. The days of the overlay wireless network are short-lived. And most importantly, every user and device is authenticated and therefore can be tracked for security and compliancy.

The intelligent edge in the end will reduce the Enterprise’s total costs thru the efficiencies of a network that is smart enough to authenticate, auto-provision and provide security all without the constant involvement of the network administrator. All of this sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. The future is now and Avaya is delivering all this with its Intelligent Edge solution including Ethernet Switching, Wireless Networking and Identity Engines network authentication services.

Dumb plumbing of the past now becomes the Intelligent Edge of the future as another major step forward in creating the next generation Enterprise network.

As we continue to build out the vision for future, next time we’ll dive into the concept of application-driven networking.

Dan is responsible for leading the strategy and vision for Avaya Networking, interfacing with industry press and analysts, engaging with customers and partners for business development and participating in industry tradeshow events. Dan also leads the architecture team responsible for creating cross portfolio solutions required to support Avaya’s Business Collaboration offerings with Unified Communications, Contact Center, and Video. Dan has over 20 years experience in the industry and has been with Bay Networks, Nortel and Avaya for 12 years. Dan has a BS in Computer and Information Systems and an MBA from the University of Michigan.

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