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Welcome to the branch of the future
Overhauling your branch network infrastructure is key to the digital transformation of your business. Re-architecting branch networks are often given less priority, as the optimization of data center or campus networks is deemed more essential.
At the end of the day, end users interface with the organization's resources through the branch networking infrastructure. State-of-the-art branch architectures will increasingly utilize cloud-based technologies, adopt automation to reduce the cost of configuring and managing branches, and seamlessly integrate IoT devices.
The branch of the future will need to support cutting-edge technologies and elaborate services. Location analytics technologies, for example, can help retailers to optimize their sales by analyzing customer movement, and healthcare providers can use location analytics to track patients, personnel and assets. The increasing deployment of IoT devices is revolutionizing facility management, smart offices, and physical security.
Software-Defined Branch (SD-Branch) is emerging as a technological framework that can significantly enhance operational agility within IT organizations as well as support upcoming technological trends.
What is Software-Defined Branch?
SD-Branch is a software-defined framework that aims to consolidate disparate branch networking infrastructures, networking and security features within a centralized singular management platform. SD-Branch is the logical next step in the evolution of branch networks. It should be noted that SD-WAN is only a component of the overall branch network architecture. Most SD-branch solutions contain the following components.
- LAN switches
- Wireless Access Points
- SD-WAN remote access headend
- Next Generation Firewalls (NGFW)
- Centralized management platform
- Virtualized network services
The management, configuration and monitoring of branch networks are challenging to say the least. SD-Branch aggregates multiple distinct branch network components such as Wi-Fi, SD-WAN, IoT, Access switching and security. An optimal SD-Branch solution needs to offer the following capabilities.
- Zero-touch provisioning and configuration of branches.
- Implementing a single pane of glass and remote centralized management of the branch office network infrastructure.
- A platform that can provide contextual end-to-end visibility across LAN networks, Wi-Fi appliances, IoT devices, LAN switching and SD-WAN network infrastructures.
- Proactive remediation of network issues across, LAN, WAN and wireless networks.
- Dynamic identification of optimal WAN paths to the campus and the cloud.
- Seamless provisioning of security policies and bringing up of branch networks through automation.
- Secure connectivity of branches to the campus data centers and the cloud.
- Seamless integration and management of wireless networks to the LAN network infrastructure within the branch.
- End-to-end QoS that assists in the prioritization of critical traffic to deliver a high-quality user experience anytime, anywhere.
These capabilities lead to enhanced operational agility that allow organizations to seamlessly bring up new branches through a centralized management platform. Furthermore, the software-defined branch architecture allows IT personnel to oversee branch networks and leverage security services to implement end-to-end policies.
Evaluating next-generation SD-Branch solutions
The considerations for designing an optimal branch networking architecture vary based on the size and the corresponding vertical industries in which an organization participates.
For example, infrastructure complexity, management and security requirements can widely vary for retailers, healthcare organizations, hospitality industries and eating establishments. Implementing an effective SD-Branch solution needs a careful definition of a functional and workable architecture that satisfies technological requirements as well as business drivers.
Ultimately the desired business outcomes drive digital transformation and business drivers help define the desired services. Leveraging the latest technological trends will enable IT personnel to onboard the desired services at the branch. The existing legacy infrastructure and available resources will limit the attainment of goals and desired results. Choosing the right solution can maximize your desired outcomes that can be achieved given underlying organizational constraints.
A retailer may want to increase sales by analyzing customer movements, dwell times and heat maps to provide real-time data to customers via mobile apps. This in turn leads to the adoption of location analytics software and cloud-delivered applications. These requirements would assist in the definition of a network architecture that includes state-of-the-art Wi-Fi capability, the optimization of data traffic and support for IoT devices.
The different sizes and number of branches also need to be considered. The network topology of large sites can be widely different than the topology of small sites. Adding to the complexity is the fact that the derived network and application architecture will most definitely involve the integration of technologies from different vendors.
Deploying the next-generation branch network is no easy task. Proof-of-concept testing is required to simulate different branch topologies, from full-stack switches in large branches to integrated hardware in small branches.
Additionally, these networks must include next-generation firewall capabilities to meet security requirements. Integration of different OEM vendor appliances and a comprehensive security assessment needs to be performed. The centralized management systems capabilities need to be evaluated, and the ability to integrate automation capabilities into the existing automation framework needs to be investigated.
How WWT can help
Our team of experts can help you define and implement an SD-Branch network architecture. We can provide you with the guidance and the necessary tools you need for a smooth transition as you traverse the stages of architectural definition, technological design and solution deployment. We will help you evaluate different architectures, perform OEM evaluation testing and conduct a comprehensive security assessment.
Specifically, we can assist your organization in the following ways:
- Network engineers can leverage WWT's capabilities to help your network planners and engineers define the requirements of an SD-Branch architecture that is needed to align with your organization's business outcomes. By leveraging the Advanced Technology Center (ATC), network engineers can experience first hand the features and capabilities of the solution.
- Network planners can evaluate the 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, collaboration applications, colocation services and IoT devices.
- WWT's professional services are available to help with the design and implementation of complex use cases within your organization's existing infrastructure.
The era of next-generation location services is approaching. We invite you to partner with us as you leverage resources and expertise to implement solutions that help you be ready for the future.