We all have heard the adage, “A coin has two sides,” but in reality, it ignores a “third side,” the edge. The edge connects the two sides of a coin to make it a coherent whole. Interestingly, many architects and designers of enterprise networks suffer from the same blind spot, overlooking the importance of the network edge.
Network edge can mean many things depending on whom you talk to: enterprise customers, users of mobile technology, implementers of IoT and service providers, all have a somewhat different view of the network edge. This is understandable. Industries have different requirements and use cases that generate a diverse set of network topologies and network ecosystems. In general, however, network edge refers to the segment of network infrastructure that connects devices and users to applications within the cloud or data centers.
However, many common themes emerge when surveying the different industries and their associated edge network topologies. The following lists the prevalent characteristics that set the network edge apart from the rest of the network.
- Distinct infrastructure for providing access to application and services distributed across multiple domains.
- The increasingly wider distribution of edge locations, users and devices.
- Policy application, security enforcement and lightweight data processing as close to the user as possible.
- Low latency, high-availability access to applications.
The proliferation of cloud services and platforms is driving many enterprise customers to adopt the cloud as an indispensable part of their digital transformation strategy. Similar changes are occurring in the other side of the edge, where consumers expect seamless anytime-anywhere communication, and businesses are increasingly adopting cutting-edge technologies and IoT devices such as medical devices, voice recognition systems and virtual reality. In addition, the steady and continual trend towards decentralization of core application and its associated components across wide geographic environments and multi-vendor cloud providers is precipitating profound transformations in the network edge architecture.
These rapid changes are exposing the need for a converged network and a common architecture. Some of the essential and salient features needed in this brand-new framework within the network edge are:
- Reliable and low-latency connectivity to multiple cloud service providers and colocation facilities that can guarantee deterministic network behavior. Data streams from IoT devices, such as process and machine control, and audio-video streams require low packet loss ratios and guaranteed end-to-end latency.
- High-bandwidth links to the core, whether it be cloud service providers or the data center. The myriad of applications and new technologies that are driving digital transformation are increasingly generating large amounts of data requiring higher and higher bandwidth.
- A software-defined fabric that incorporates centralized management and provides an end-to-end platform where consistent policy definition and enforcement is implemented across all locations, users and devices.
- Colocation services where the edge network services and compute edge platforms are incorporated at colocation facilities where the edge is extended to regional high-performance hubs that can provide a variety of edge services, such as low-latency connectivity to various cloud providers, network and security services and a virtual local and data processing functionality.
- The convergence of traditionally separate infrastructures with its associated use cases such as IoT and traditional campus and branch networks, into a common network.
The figure below shows the broad outline of the next-generation edge network architecture.
Organizations may not need all the components as shown above, but what this next-generation edge architecture implies is that having a cloud strategy without consideration of network edge requirements would be ineffective. Also, without having an end-to-end architectural view that includes the edge, you may run the risk of developing isolated and siloed remote locations within your organization.
WWT can help
You want to define and implement your next-generation edge network, but you need help along the way. WWT can provide you guidance and the necessary tools you need to for a smooth transition as you traverse the stages of architectural definition, technological design and solution deployment. Figure 2 shows different stages in defining and implementing your network edge strategy.
WWT can assist in the following ways:
- Network engineers can leverage WWT’s capabilities to help your network planners and engineers define the next generation network edge. By leveraging the Advanced Technology Center (ATC), network engineers can experience firsthand the features and capabilities and verify the operation of your existing configurations against the new platform.
- Network planners can evaluate architectural ramifications of changes to your network by partnering with WWT and conducting proofs of concept (POCs) in the ATC.
- WWT’s experts can assist by conducting on-site workshops and training to help you facilitate the integration of various technologies from SD-WAN, colocation services and IoT devices.
- WWT’s Infrastructure Services are available to help with the design and implementation of complex use cases such as deployment of consistent segmentation across various part of the enterprise network.
Innovate with WWT
The era of the next-generation network edge is approaching. We invite you to partner with us as you leverage resources and expertise to implement solutions that will help you be ready for the future.