Lippis Report 156: Why We Are Entering The Age of Borderless Networking

nicklippis.jpgNetworking is entering a new phase or era. During the 1990s, new networking markets opened up, creating multi-billion dollar opportunities for the vendor community and corporate cost savings for IT business leaders. First, it was shared LANs and routing, then switched LANs, then Frame Relay to speed up WANs, then SNA over IP, then remote access via dial-up and VPN, then MPLS, then IP telephony, then Wireless LANs etc… and now, it’s video and cloud networking. You get the picture. But what we didn’t realize as we build these networks is that they are silos with disparate management systems and unique access methods resulting in operational cost overlap and, most importantly, user frustration as they transition application use from desktop, to mobile end point, to remote endpoint. In short, we built boundaries around applications in the form of networks and it is the dismantling of these borders that vendors are now starting to deliver and differentiate upon. It’s not just Cisco that communicates borderless networks, but HP Networking, Juniper, Brocade, Extreme, Avaya, Force10 and others too. Why is the industry entering a new age of borderless networking and what’s in it for IT business leaders, is explained in this Lippis Report Research Note.

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As each new wave of computing entered corporate IT departments, a new set of networking requirements arose. To connect remote 3270 terminals via SNA to mainframes, IT implemented an analog multipoint wide area network or WAN. To connect remote ANSI terminals to minicomputers, IT departments implemented pools of dial-up modems and private line WANs. To connect personal computers (PCs) via Client-Server computing, IT departments implemented Local Area Networks or LANs via LAN switches, which we now call wired connections. To connect multiprotocol LANs over the corporate WAN, IT departments implemented routed networks. To gain access to LAN based applications while remote, IT departments implemented Virtual Private Networks or VPNs. And, as computing and applications go mobile, IT has been implementing Wireless Local Area Networks or WLANs. In short, each network was deployed to service a certain computing style and application set. These networks are silos, and with advances in technology, IT business leaders can now design one borderless network to provide a broad array of common access methods to support a plethora of endpoints and applications.

Siloed networking frustrates users, as each access network performs differently depending upon its access method. Siloed networking also frustrates IT, as each siloed network has its own management system creating inefficient IT operations. In addition, siloed networking does not meet today’s IT “any access” requirements.

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There are boundaries or silos that need to be broken down in many places of the network. In today’s modern IT world, applications are being extended over multiple networks e.g., wired, wireless, cellular, remote, virtual, etc where users need to shift their application access back and forth between these different network access methods and expect the same or consistent experience. In short, networks need to be borderless so that applications can be accessed independent upon network entry point and IT operations efficient. This “any access” trend is accelerating as IT business leaders seek to connect not only traditional desktops and laptops, but smartphones, notebooks, tablets, iPads, cameras and building control systems into a common general purpose network that support multiple logical network topologies.

Crossing purpose-built silos is difficult for applications, as bandwidth and quality of service issues limit application portability thus their usefulness. These different access methods offer limited consistency resulting in user frustration when they shift application access from desktop to mobile smartphone to VPN and back again.

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And this shifting of application access between different networks and endpoints is only going to increase. Apple sold over 3.3 million iPads in its first 3 months, the highest uptake of any endpoint device. Google activates 100,000 Android based phones a day. Cisco recently announced its CIUS android-based table for business use with tight links to its unified communications (UC) and videoconference systems. Every major UC provider will be offering similar devices while traditional computer vendors serve up android-based tablets over the next few quarters. The iPad and Android tablet is a new tier of computing which will drive users to access their applications over mobile and wireless networks in addition to their desktop and VPN networks.

If IT business leaders are unable to get ahead of this curve and think of network access from an architected and unified design point of view, than unfortunately, their users and IT cost will be more frustrated and expensive, respectively, than others. Siloed networks are friction points as they create boundaries between network access types degrading user experience, which results in decreased productivity and increased IT operational cost. The result is a high total cost of ownership and less then optimal user experience, and thus decreased corporate productivity. The status quo of siloed networking is about to change.

Cisco’s Borderless Network Architecture

From a design point of view, borderless networking requires three core attributes: 1) reliability, 2) security and 3) seamlessness. Cisco was the first to articulate a vision for borderless networks, which has resonated with IT business leaders as it represents a solution to their pain. For example, Cisco’s borderless network architecture is built upon five services: 1) mobility or users in motion, 2) Energy efficiency called EnergyWise, 3) integrated network security via its TrustSec architecture, 4) application performance and 5) video management, control and distribution via its MediaNet. These borderless network services are built within switching, routing, security, wireless and wide area application services or WAAS infrastructure products. It’s the integration of these services into existing network infrastructure and their control via policy and management that enable a borderless experience to occur.

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Juniper’s New Network

But Cisco is not the only supplier to grasp the problem siloed networks create. Juniper Networks is working to a similar end, albeit it hasn’t articulated it well. It provides VPN, LAN Switching, mobile security through its acquisition of SMobile and is working toward a flat cloud Ethernet fabric through its project Stratus and New Network initiatives. For example, Juniper plans to integrate SMobile security into its JUNOS Pulse endpoint software for network connectivity and acceleration breaking down the boundary between LAN based and mobile network access.

HP Networking’s Converged Infrastructure

When HP Networking launched its comprehensive network portfolio in April of this year it emphasized the elimination of network silos. The HP Networking portfolio strives to eliminate redundant equipment by integrating wired and wireless environments with security from edge to core. From an IT operations perspective, this translates into a “single pane of glass” for management, configuration, deployment and monitoring these networks as if one. HP Networking hopes to implement a common policy management to reduce human error of network operations while creating a consistent user experience across access mediums.

Brocade One

Brocade has jumped on the borderless bandwagon also in June of this year with the introduction of its “Brocade One”. Brocade One emphasizes the convergence of wired, wireless and cellular networking to offer a seamless user experience. In addition, Brocade One describes its view of a simplified virtualized data center network fabric that scales to cloud spec. In essence, Brocade One is about eliminating the boundaries around wired, wireless and data center networking.

Arista Network’s VM Tracer

Arista Networks doesn’t use the terminology of borderless networking either, but its recent VM Tracer strives to eliminate the boundaries between physical and virtual networking environments. VM Tracer does this by being integrated into Arista’s EOS linking Arista switches to VMware’s vCenter. This linkage creates an adaptive infrastructure in which the network responds to changes in the VM network while also providing complete visibility into the virtual machine network.

Extreme’s DirectAttach

Extreme Networks has focused on removing two network boundaries; the wired and wireless boundary and the physical to virtual network boundary. For the latter, Extreme has introduced its Direct Attach approach to data center networking that eliminates the virtual switch layer, simplifying the network and improving performance.

Force10’s Open Automation

Force10’s focus in eliminating boundaries is in the data center between physical and virtual networks. Force 10’s Open Automation initiative seeks to align dynamic data center changes with network configuration and policies, a huge barrier to virtualized data center management and scale.

While each of the above suppliers are at different points in their borderless network initiatives, the direction is clear. The boundaries between siloed networking are coming down be it in the data center, campus, branch office or home. For IT business leaders this means simplified operations and management as a key attribute is the “single pane of glass” approach to network management for siloed networks. The big surprise and delight will be found in enhanced user experience, as borderless networking strives to deliver a common access method for all networking types while enabling applications to be extended across a plethora of different endpoints, depending upon endpoint capabilities and network resources.

In essence, borderless networking’s value proposition is that it enables a corporation to be more adaptive or agile while increasing user experience and reducing operational cost. With the majority of IT business leaders trading off reductions in operational spend for an increase in capital expenditure, borderless networking is the right solution at the right time.

One Response to Lippis Report 156: Why We Are Entering The Age of Borderless Networking

  1. Nick Lippis said:

    Why We Are Entering The Age of Borderless Networking