Next Generation Networking: The Future of the Edge Next Generation Networking: The Future of the Edge
Deeper network visibility and easy access and deployment of edge-focused hardware the key to next-gen’s success, says TD’s Brent de Luca. Next Generation Networking: The Future of the Edge

The world is a highly networked place. In 2018, networks connect everything to everyone, covering over half of the world’s population and granting them access to online services of every imaginable shape and form. As of December 31, 2017, stat-tracking website internetworldstats.com indicated that internet penetration stands at 54.4%, meaning it reaches over 4.1 billion people, most of whom connect with some kind of mobile device.

Naturally, as the networks that connect us all have grown, usage models have shifted and data volumes have exploded, networks have had to become more complicated. A combination of wired and wireless connectivity has become integral to keeping all of the data we now generate flowing, and while the core of the network has become increasingly more wired, the edge has gone almost entirely wireless to accommodate the volume of mobile devices that require connectivity.

It’s fair to say that managing and maintaining it all effectively has become a truly Herculean task. The IT industry’s solution so far has been to develop ever-more capable networking technologies, and the current focus is on what is being called “next-generation networking”, or NGN.

The focus of companies developing these NGN technologies has been on making network management as smooth, easy, and plain-sailing as possible. They’ve done this while also enabling faster-than-ever throughput, keeping security tight and, to some extent, providing flexibility that allows for the mixing and matching of hardware from a range of vendors.

Aruba Airwave

Take Aruba’s AirWave service as an example. Aruba has been developing next-generation wired and wireless networking technology for years, and AirWave is its device monitoring and management solution that offers full network visibility from a central console, regardless of who has supplied the underlying hardware.

AirWave offers IT departments dramatically reduced management overhead, granular insight into the state of their network, and even high-tech features like radio frequency heat maps that allow them to work out where WiFi coverage needs to be boosted.

And as edge networking has become more important to get right, since that’s how the huge number of mobile devices connect to corporate networks, Aruba has developed several high-tech access points specifically designed to handle a huge number of devices as well as the massive throughput required to service them all with connectivity.

Brent de Luca, HPE Aruba Networking Manager at Tarsus Distribution, says that “The big push in networking lately is to mobility, so wireless networks really need to exceed wired network speeds.

“What’s required is access points with multi-gig ports to handle the wireless load, and that’s exactly what Aruba has done with its latest 330-series AC-class access points. They have smart rate ports that double the speeds coming through and are able to handle up to 2.5 gigabits per second of throughput”, he added.

Controlling access to that edge while at the same time making it a better guest experience is likewise a priority for any Next Generation Networking project. To that end, Aruba has a service it calls ClearPass that handles all of that, from guest authentication to presenting them with a pleasant-looking and easy-to-use guest portal that grants access to the network, but with restrictions specified by IT.

Aruba Central

But perhaps the biggest Next Gen Networking push by Aruba is its Aruba Central service, a cloud-based management solution that puts granular network control and deep insights right at IT’s fingertips.

The only catch is it’s not hardware-agnostic, so you’ll need to be running Aruba Instant access points and switches, but if you do, there are plenty of benefits that even go beyond greater visibility into what’s happening on your network.

One of these is something Aruba calls “Zero-Touch Provisioning”, a function of Aruba Central that lets IT configure branch-office networking hardware according to their unique product codes before sending it to the site.

Once there, someone – even someone without any IT expertise – simply needs to plug the hardware into power and the rest of the network (a simple matter of plug & play), and the device downloads its configuration settings from the cloud. That reduces costs associated with getting an IT person out to the site while still enabling easy branch-office expansion. It’s also a great way to roll new hardware out across several sites, as it drastically reduces the admin required.

De Luca says Aruba Central offers resellers a fantastic opportunity to expand their revenue streams. “Resellers can charge a monthly retainer for network maintenance as a service, and manage all of their Aruba clients through Central’s multi-tenancy capabilities. Each customer gets their own section of the central dashboard, and resellers can manage them all from any connected device,” he says.

De Luca ends off with the observation that “Like works better with like, but you can be hardware agnostic and still get benefits from Aruba’s next-gen networking approach.”

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