The corporate network and its potential as a strategic business asset
By Martin May, regional director, Enterasys Networks.
One of the most strategic business assets, a tool able to fast-track the realisation of business goals, is the corporate network. While there are many ways in which to design a network, only a strategically sound infrastructure will eventually align with all corporate objectives to deliver a significant return on investment, says Martin May, regional director, Enterasys Networks. Network design has to be driven by an organisation's core business needs. They could include a requirement to grow the client base, build better employee interaction or heighten brand awareness. They are most likely to involve better collaboration with staff, partners and potential business associates. They could also call for better product and service promotion through greater access to pertinent information and knowledge for all stakeholders and role players. A strategically evaluated network design will drive security, productivity and agility through solutions that support these and any number of future business priorities and objectives. Such a network infrastructure will enable organisations to optimise business operations and application performance throughout the enterprise, and use the network infrastructure to conduct business more efficiently and, ultimately, more profitably. Undoubtedly, a strategically designed network is able to play a central role in helping organisations of all sizes meet their KPI (key performance indicator) targets. In this light, one of the most pervasive trends in recent times has been the proliferation of BYOD (bring your own device) technology, which has presented a host of challenges to organisations. One of the most significant has been the need to come to terms with demands from BYOD users to be fully functionally linked to the corporate network. BYOD solutions are neither piecemeal nor single access point solutions - as are wireless LANs. On the contrary, they are end-to-end solutions that must marry application capacity and delivery in a predictable way. In coming to terms with this, many companies have struggled to strike a balance between enabling productivity by allowing an ever-growing list of new devices, and maintaining appropriate levels of compliance and security - both within and outside the traditional network perimeter. Many organisations are today measuring themselves on their abilities to effectively deliver applications and services to mobile users on their own devices. The problems are becoming more complex to resolve day-by-day as people increase the number of devices that need to be connected to corporate networks around the globe. The efficiency and effectiveness of the management tools employed to oversee this increasing armada of BYOD owners while securing the network are only possible with the support of a well-architected network infrastructure. To achieve this, network design strategies must include long-term vision matched with short-term motivation. Strategic planning will help to marshal time and resources in a bid to create a fundamental network design to support BYOD and related technologies. This may well require the design team to integrate a number of networking groups, including social media sites, into a single architecture to achieve desired objectives using a mix of privately owned and business-owned devices. Once this has been successfully achieved, the next step is to address application capacity emanating from the data centre. Questions such as how much of the network capacity should be available to feed the application to the users will have to be answered. The sizing of the network, in terms of capacity, and the application must be in balance - based on consumption. Currently, network designers must go beyond traditional services and storage issues to address and relieve bottlenecks linked to mobility demands, whether at the data centre or the network's access edge. What is important is a strong network foundation. This thinking is central to Enterasys' OneFabric concept, launched last year (2012). It's a converged networking architecture designed for more flexible and easier provisioning of data centre resources and control of everything from core data centre infrastructure to campus and branch elements, from edge switching to mobile devices, using a single management pane. Now, moving forward, OneFabric Edge is redefining the way organisations manage the network edge - from unified wired/wireless access, guest and trusted users, enterprise or consumer BYODs and seamless application delivery - in a simple, scalable and cost-effective way. It's all about enhancing the network, fusing design and technology to create a business asset of immense value and usefulness.