Wireless and Mobility: Driving New Network Practices
While wireless has been a part of networking for more than a decade, the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) will make significant changes in the way network architectures end up designed. Nowhere will those changes be more immediate or far-reaching than in the ways wireless systems are used.
We are already beginning to see the use of networked devices that are entirely mobile. Personal wearable devices like fitness bands, smart watches, smart clothing, as well as, smart phones and tablets are beginning to proliferate. These devices will connect to cloud servers, or network servers. So administrators need to prepare for devices entering and leaving the network at random. These devices, whether company owned, or bring your own device (BYOD), will also access the network from points outside the network. Network policies and procedures need to properly assign access and permissions.
Networks used to be fixed with devices that didn’t move around. Now networks have portions of virtual networks, some software defined network (SDN) sectors, cloud interfaces, movable sensors and devices – network administrators need to keep track of all of it in real-time. That increases the reliance on network information solutions. That old saying that “you cannot manage, especially in an environment of amorphous change, what you cannot see,” becomes even more important.
Disruptive technologies led by IoT technologies challenge all aspects of current network best practices. If it is understood that the connectivity of everything is inevitable, then the industry has to come to grips on the challenges and then reshape current best practices on how networking architecture must align to drive stronger business strategies.
IoT, its accompanying cloud services and Big Data analytics, routinely deliver immense and unheard-of amounts of data from devices and sensors. That means network architectures continue to adapt and will change dramatically to implement the data flow from these sensors. That also means networks will become outward focused, as the amount of data acquired from edge devices dwarf the amount of data produced inside the network.
Previously, network architecture for wireless used a design that had a wireless access point directly and quickly connected to wired Ethernet. Network backhauls were always wired. However, in more recent times, companies with sprawling multi-building campuses, manufacturing, or process plants, have been using wireless backhauls.
Some of these are using WiMAX (IEEE 802.16) as broadband microwave links. Others are designed as optical. These wireless backhauls are significantly less expensive to install, and provide secure data transmission.
Wireless backhauls also make it easier to set up new nodes or temporary data centers, without the cost of pulling large scale fiber to the building. In manufacturing and process plants, wireless backhauls make it possible to extend sensor and control networks everywhere in the plant, especially where there are no more cables available in marshalling cabinets, or where sensors were not a part of the original design.
With the increased network stress, there is also a need for new security architecture that will cope with virtual servers and computer systems, bidirectional cloud access to servers not controlled by the enterprise, edge firewalls and device-level security software that uses encryption and authentication directly in the device. The new security architecture will need to act more like an immune system than a firewall. Intrusion detection and malware identification will need more development than today’s antivirus software. They will need to traverse the network, find problematic data and software, and eliminate it.
The majority of this must be automatic. Current security responses are far too open loop, with a human response required for the majority of actions. Network security must do 80 percent of its work automatically. Only very difficult issues should go to the network administrator in person.
Today’s network administrator needs to prepare for a changed network in the future. Wireless systems for sensors, devices and backhauls introduced into the network will need to be accounted for. The amounts of data networks that you will have to deal with will increase exponentially in the next 10 years. According to Gartner Group, there will be billions of devices connected to the IoT by 2020. Network administrators need to be up to speed on these devices, and the wireless interconnection most of them will be using.
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Thoughts? What do you think about the changing needs of network architecture with the advent of wireless and mobile devices? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.