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Data Networking Déjà Vu

By Lou Serlenga, Senior Vice President, Americas Sales and Field Ops, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company
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Time flies. It seems like it wasn’t that long ago that we experienced a major transformation of the enterprise access network.

Wi-Fi networks were introduced back in 1997 (only 24 years ago), but the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, followed by tablets in 2010, drove an inflection point. More workers and more devices connected over the air instead of jacking into Ethernet. Access networks shifted from primarily wired to primarily wireless. People were untethered, making it possible to work from anywhere, long before the pandemic made working from home the new norm.

From the earliest days of Aruba, we knew that people move and networks must follow. We have long been committed to a mobile-first world, and our job was to make the transformation of network access as easy as possible for our customers. From the rise of BYOD to newer hybrid workplaces, we recognized the power of enterprise-quality mobility. Our latest innovation, Aruba ESP (Edge Services Platform), helps organizations move forward with a unified network that’s AI-powered and automated, secure, and available as a service.

Our “Customer First, Customer Last” commitment has been unwavering from the start. We’re proud that our accomplishments are recognized: Gartner positioned Aruba as a Leader in the 2020 Wired and Wireless LAN Magic Quadrant—for the 15th consecutive year.

Here in 2021, it feels like déjà vu. We’re once again in the midst of a major networking transformation, but this time, it’s the WAN with the rapid adoption of software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN). With the integration of Silver Peak and the EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform into the Aruba family, we continue to be on the forefront of the next network transformation.

Building an Enterprise WAN for a Cloud-First World

BYOD and a mobile-first workstyle drove the shift from wired to wireless. Today, transformation of WAN edge infrastructure is driven by the unabated migration of business applications to SaaS, IaaS, and public cloud. It’s a tectonic shift: Statistica forecasts that by the end of 2021, cloud workloads will represent 94 percent of total data center workloads. Applications are now hosted anywhere, both public and private, and often in multiple locations.

But conventional WAN router-centric architectures were never designed to take advantage of the distributed nature of cloud apps and services. Why? Because they typically backhaul cloud-destined application traffic from the branch to the headquarters data center to protect against enterprise threats. Traffic is then steered to SaaS or IaaS instances closest to headquarters, rather than nearest the workers or customers in the branch. This “trombone effect” traffic pattern adds latency which negatively impairs performance and user experience.

The solution is local internet breakout—sending cloud-destined traffic directly from the branch to the closest SaaS or IaaS instance over the internet. But local internet breakout requires application awareness and automation not available with traditional branch routers. Delivering the best cloud application user experience requires a modern software-defined approach – an SD-WAN.

Four Reasons to Move to SD-WAN

The primary advantage of first-generation SD-WAN solutions was cost savings. Cost savings are still important today, but even more important is delivering a consistent high-quality user experience, business agility, uniform security policy enforcement and IT efficiency.

  1. End-User Quality of Experience: The intelligent Aruba EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform, acquired from Silver Peak, continuously learns, adapts and automates how traffic is carried across the WAN. Users gain always-available, consistent application performance, even for demanding applications like voice and video, across any combination of transport services, including broadband internet. Users in branch and remote offices are assured of the highest levels of SaaS and IaaS performance. Microsoft 365 users are connected to the closest Microsoft “doorstep” for the highest quality of experience.
  2. Business Agility: Cloud and SD-WAN solutions frequently claim to enable agility, but an advanced SD-WAN can truly accelerate the time-to-revenue for a new branch location or new business application. Centralized orchestration and zero-touch provisioning mean IT experts do not have to visit new locations to set up advanced connectivity. An office manager can simply plug in power and LAN and WAN cables. The SD-WAN branch appliance, once authenticated, automatically receives its configuration and becomes part of the SD-WAN. IT defines the QoS and security policies once for an application and pushes that configuration to hundreds or thousands of locations with just a few mouse clicks.
  3. Consistent Security Policy Enforcement: No one wants a one-off “snowflake” configuration in the network. Centralized orchestration of QoS and security policies ensure consistent configuration and minimize human error. With Aruba’s SD-WAN solution, organizations are free to create a best-of-breed secure access service edge (SASE) architecture to fit their business requirements without compromising either SD-WAN features and functionality or robust security enforcement. Aruba EdgeConnect unifies foundational security functions at the edge and automatically integrates with the leading cloud-delivered security providers, including Zscaler, Netskope, Check Point CloudGuard Connect and Palo Alto Prisma Access.
  4. IT Efficiency: IT must not only do more with less, but they must do more in a COVID-safe fashion. Simplifying IT is one way to achieve greater efficiency. Aruba EdgeConnect simplifies the WAN edge infrastructure by unifying SD-WAN, routing, a zone-based stateful firewall, dynamic segmentation, WAN optimization, and application visibility and control in a single software instance. With Aruba, the IT footprint at each branch is smaller, but more importantly, all of these WAN edge functions can be centrally managed from a single console hosted centrally or in the cloud. Advanced application and network analytics speed problem resolution, freeing up talented IT staff for more strategic work.

I’m Seeing it…Again

Looking back at the transformation of the campus network, the shift to a secure SD-WAN feels like déjà vu once again. We’re just as committed to helping our customers transform their wide area networks, delivering innovation and exceptional customer and employee experiences.

Learn why successful network and security transformation power the digital enterprise.