Networks that were designed and built a few years ago are not prepared to support the requirements of today’s technology. They were created to handle predictable, static traffic flows that originated mostly from wired devices, not built for the more changeable mobile devices with numerous applications running at any given time.
A decade ago, mobility for enterprise networks was viewed as a convenience, a way to provide those employees fortunate enough to have laptops with some ability to move about their workplace while remaining connected to the network.
Today, however, wireless local area networks (WLANs) have become mission-critical, and enabling mobility has become vital to the enterprise. But Gartner predicts that by 2015, 80 percent of newly installed wireless networks will be obsolete. Forrester forecasts that the share of mobile enterprise traffic will increase from 26% in 2013 to 59% in 2017.
Today’s Networks Just Aren’t Ready
In concrete terms, the inability of the network to meet the requirements of today’s applications results in impairments such as increased jitter which can decrease the quality of experience (QoE) for real-time application such as voice and video. What’s more, the user’s experience is inconsistent as they move around the enterprise, particularly from a wired to a wireless network.
Wired and wireless networks still behave as separate environments, each with its own authentication process and unique set of policies. This means users may still have different experiences when they are using a wired or a wireless device. It is also complicated for enterprise IT departments: there are two separate management systems, two set of policies and two authentication processes, making maintenance and troubleshooting more difficult.
Unified Access Provides The Right Kind Of Access
The problem is in the administration of the users and the heterogeneous devices which they use in connection with a BYOD policy. How can organisations differentiate between corporate and personal devices and applications? A Unified Access approach simplifies network management to provide a consistent experience across the entire network – both wired and wireless.
Improving the overall experience requires network architecture to be simplified with a common authentication process and a set of security and QoS policies that apply to both wired and wireless networks and provides users with the expectation that no matter what devices they use, wired or wireless, they will get the same level of performance, reliability, security and satisfaction. The IT department defines policies just once, regardless of device, and it’s possible to define access to the network based on location, as well as prioritising access based on an application level too.
It’s So Easy With Unified Access
By setting policies in this way, the IT department simplifies management of devices so that, for example, a new employee can add their own devices to their profile on the network. New employees can add their own devices under a Unified Access with BYOD approach, and the portal automatically gives them the right access depending on which device is in use at any given time with on-boarding.
All policies and configuration for the different devices are made by the IT department initially in the portal, and once the employee makes the initial engagement, their profile can be built up accordingly. When the same employee gets a new personal iPad which needs to be authenticated on the network, the employee doesn’t have to go back to the IT department to undergo a complex process – they can just go to the online portal and indicate that they are using a new device, which has its network settings pre-configured.
The demand for bandwidth doesn’t just come from humans with smart devices. We mustn’t neglect machine-to-machine communication either – the so-called Internet of Things. Wired devices such as security cameras with sensors also send data across the network, and prioritisation of these devices must also be factored into any Unified Access approach.
Protect Your Network Investment
But enterprises don’t have to change their network infrastructure in order to do this. By opting for a Unified Access-powered network, any investment in existing or new network infrastructure will still be able to cope with demand in the years to come.
Unified Access provides real business take-aways – the scalability of being able to start with just a handful of employees and increasing that usage as demands increase, as well as the ability to use a single solution to support a virtual desktop approach with advanced applications across voice, data, LAN and WLAN.
A Unified Access management system can be implemented to update existing technology and protect past investments in the form of a simple software upgrade, or it can even form part of a completely new solution to ensure functionality in the future.
Whichever option is required, ensuring continuity across both wired and wireless networks will significantly help to cope with demand as smart devices and their demanding applications continue to increase in the workplace.
Networks must be ready to cope with future demand, and as WLANs become increasingly mission-critical as mobility evolves, a Unified Access strategy can help to ensure optimal performance and prioritisation across the enterprise network based on business needs and employee role, requirements and location at any given time.
Johan Ragmo is the Business Development Director for CNE Europe for the Network Infrastructure side of Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, a role which he has held since earlier this year. Before taking on this role, he was responsible for the Nordics & Baltics before taking extra responsibility for the UK as a Business Development Manager for Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, roles which he held for a total of four years.