A Unified Access Layer Forces Changes to Infrastructure Thinking at the Edge of the Network
Limited IT resources, increased mobility and reduced IT budgets are providing catalysts for the buying behavior at the edge of the network. This research looks at how these changes are driving a unified access layer.
- Wireless LANs will address new connectivity requirements, and enterprises will rightsize the edge of the network by re-evaluating how wired ports are used and eliminate unneeded ports.
- IT organizations will reduce the complexity and costs of provisioning and managing network components by eliminating the need for duplicate network applications and consoles.
- Network service application1 innovation is being delivered by WLAN vendors, and enterprises will purchase this new function across the edge of the network to both wired and wireless clients.
- Analyze the number of ports being used for connectivity to eliminate unnecessary switches, deploy Power Over Ethernet (PoE) as appropriate for access points and rightsize the edge of the network based on the actual number of users and devices.
- Plan to deploy a single network management, guest access and authentication network service application for wired and wireless users.
- Integrate context variables such as location, time and date into networking requirements for better network services at the edge of the network.
The number of switching ports being deployed at the edge of the network is decreasing as enterprises rightsize their infrastructure, and growing mobility requirements are changing the way that enterprises look at the edge of the network. In a recent Gartner survey, 76% of enterprises noted that a single IT resource was being used to manage these changes. As a result of these changes, Gartner is seeing the emergence of a unified access layer that provides wired and wireless connectivity. It must also provide consolidation of network tools while reducing the complexity and costs of the network application services needed to provision, manage, authenticate and even locate end users across one or multiple enterprise facilities.
Source: Gartner (March 2012)
Impact: Wireless LANs will address new connectivity requirements, and enterprises will rightsize the edge of the network by re-evaluating how wired ports are used and eliminate unneeded ports
IT organizations continue to scrutinize network designs. At the edge of the network this includes understanding how many users are actually connecting to the wired ports that are currently deployed within the enterprise. Standard network tools will report to IT managers the number of times the network is accessed and how active network ports have been for a defined period of time. These reports will help enterprise eliminate unused ports without affecting service to end users. Users are bringing more devices to the enterprise for connectivity, and these new devices are seeking wireless connectivity, so rightsizing the current usage of existing ports will decrease the number of switch ports that need to be refreshed, as well as the savings associated with the maintenance and requirements for additional upstream ports.
- Understand your usage scenarios and know who is using the network and how they will connect.
- Test and monitor existing wired network ports to re-evaluate the required number needed to meet current and future needs.
Impact: IT organizations will reduce the complexity and costs of provisioning and managing network components by eliminating the need for duplicate network applications and consoles
As switching companies continue to integrate wireless products into a unified access layer solution, enterprises are looking for the tools needed to provision, manage, secure and maintain all components with the access layer of the network to be consolidated. It is no longer acceptable to have two different network management applications or differing guest access applications, especially if the solution is being provided by the same vendor. Unifying network service applications reduces complexity by providing a single display and reduces costs associated with redundant solutions.
- Rationalize network service applications such as network management, guest access, security and policy enforcement to a single display per application.
- Reduce the number of licenses necessary to manage wired and wireless components.
Impact: Network service application innovation is being delivered by WLAN vendors, and enterprises will purchase this new function across the edge of the network to both wired and wireless clients
Innovative leadership functionality for network service applications in recent years has been led by wireless vendors. The adoption of 802.1X for client security across the network was enhanced when the industry felt that wireless networks were unsecure. Guest access has moved from a media access control (MAC) access control list (ACL) with a single captive portal experience to certificate-based and Web-based authentication methods that provide a front end to multiple captive portals that allow IT organizations to define the end-user experience with much more granularity. The ability to integrate context-aware variables such as location, as well as time and date, provide even more granularity for enterprises to control where and when users access the network.
- Understand vendor road maps to integrate new capabilities, including context-aware variables such as location, time and date to be applied to wired and wireless users.
- Enhance management and access through the use of policy enforcement.
- impactappraisal... (37KB)
1During inquiries, clients have asked about unified wired and wireless network service applications. These applications include, but are not limited to, traditional security services, such as the authentication of users onto the network; guest access services that address role provisioning; and Web authentication of users with any type of device, network management, intrusion detection, policy enforcement and location.