The Wired and Wi-Fi network cannot be separate, this does not work
There is a lot of buzz in IT organizations around software defined networking (SDN) and its ability to drastically change the nature of how we look at and manage networks. In general SDN separates the control plane traffic from the data plane traffic in order to separate and centralize decisions about where and/or how the infrastructure will actually send the traffic.
Additionally an SDN programmable API provides an interface for other applications such as firewalls, Web filters, and application visibility and control solutions to provide automated provisioning of all network services from a centralized location.
SDN has many benefits, such as reducing OPEX, increasing network efficiency and agility, and increasing visibility and analytics into the entire network for better traffic engineering.
To date, all of these great SDN advances in networking have been mainly focused on the wired infrastructure, but what about the Wi-Fi part of the network? According to IDC enterprise Wi-Fi continued on its path of solid growth with a 28.5 percent increase over the same period last year. In large part the growth of Wi-Fi is being driven by the explosive growth in mobility and BYOD. Wi-Fi is a critical business asset, the wired and Wi-Fi network cannot be treated as two different networks, this just does not work.
For SDN to really work for the “entire” network it must include the Wi-Fi part of the network. Wi-Fi is no longer a toy or something off on the side that is a nice to have. It is a required part of the overall business network and users demand that it be available all the time, transparent, and provide the same feature benefit of the wired network.
The Wi-Fi network has a unique set of challenges that make the need for centralized control with distributed intelligence imperative:
- Mobile and BYOD devices are constantly on the move and users expect a consistent user experience regardless of from where they are connecting. Connectivity must be ubiquitous and the rules for connecting must be able to transparently and dynamically change as the user/device roams throughout the connected world.
- Based on several factors, such as meeting compliance mandates, traffic engineering, security, and distributed office locations the best data path for Wi-Fi traffic changes. For some traffic it might be best to keep it localized to the access point (AP), while in other cases a centralized traffic approach would be the best way to go or in some cases the ability to simultaneously do both should provide this required flexibility. Decisions or policies on how or where the traffic is forwarded must be centrally configured and then distributed out to the network devices allowing them to make the decisions on traffic forwarding. These policies need to be dynamic and change with user/device, time of day, the location that the connection is coming from, and/or protocol type.
- As discussed above an open API into the centralized management system is necessary to allow the easy integration of any application required by the business. This programmability might be the integration of a mobile device management (MDM) system to manage mobile devices when they are not connected to the network, additional reporting tools for compliance, or any number of the hundreds of applications in use by businesses.
Identifi™ Adapt is the industry’s first software-defined networking (SDN) solution for Wi-Fi deployments. The IdentiFi Adapt architecture is part of the Enterasys OneFabric architecture providing centralized control, distributed intelligence, and programmability from any IT application for the collaboration and orchestration required to easily enable the delivery of new services.
For any questions or help in planning your SDN deployments please contact Enterasys via our Web site and we will be happy to help.
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