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5 steps for modernizing enterprise networks

29 October, 2021


Intense focus on digital transformation has exposed many flaws with legacy networks. They are rigid, require intensive manual processes, and lack the agility and intelligence to meet the demands of digital business. Organizations need to make network modernization a priority if they are to maximize their investments in other technologies. Software-defined networking, artificial intelligence, cloud, new Wi-Fi and 5G options, and network security can combine to improve performance of traditional networks.

Software-define everything

With legacy infrastructure when a change is made network-wide, each device must be reconfigured, because the data and management planes are tightly coupled together. This can take far too long for a digital business. Software-defined systems decouple the control plane from the data plane enabling the control plane to be centralized. This lets engineers make changes from a centralized location and propagate it out across the network in near real time. The shift to a software-based system is foundational to network modernization.

Embrace AIOps

To help network engineers better manage their networks, most vendors provide real-time telemetry data. The problem is the volume of data can be too much for even the best engineers to interpret quickly and error-free.
AIOps systems, on the other hand, are constantly watching and can alert network-operations teams to the smallest anomalies that can create performance problems. Start by employing AI at the most challenging parts of the network first—Wi-Fi and SD-WAN—and look to expand from there.
Start by employing AI at the most challenging parts of the network first—Wi-Fi and SD-WAN—and look to expand from there.

Leverage the power of the cloud

Decoupling software from the underlying hardware allows networks to be centralized. Early in the software-defined cycle, the software was centralized in on-premises controllers, but most vendors also offer a cloud option, which can provide a number of benefits. First, all the data from across the entire network can be centralized providing a larger, end-to-end view of the network. Also, the cloud enables massive scale for compute-intensive workloads such as AI. Moreover, the providers can compare one organization’s metadata with other organizations’ metadata enabling network engineers to understand how their environments compare to others.

Upgrade to Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E, and 5G as appropriate

The rise of video is putting tremendous stress on legacy Wi-Fi networks, which impairs the quality. Newer wireless solutions are markedly better.
Wi-Fi 6 builds on Wi-Fi 5 but brings in many features from the world of cellular to reduce congestion, improve battery life and extend range. Wi-Fi 6E is uses the 6Ghz spectrum for faster access and even less congestion than Wi-Fi 6 but isn’t backwards compatible with Wi-Fi 5 and earlier versions.
None of these is better, per se; they each serve different purposes.

Make security intrinsic to the network

One growing way to secure an enterprise is by embedding security into the network as a cloud service. This is more commonly known as secure access service edge or SASE, and it enables businesses to deploy corporate-grade security anywhere in the network, including a worker’s home. Success with SASE is dependent on bringing the security and network-operations teams together.