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How convergence can reduce stress on legacy networks

28 Jun 2013

Virtualisation, mobility and the move towards cloud computing are placing unprecedented levels of stress on legacy network infrastructures, presenting network administrators with serious challenges.

They need to meet the bandwidth and quality of service (QoS) demands of a new class of services delivered at the network edge, while keeping costs, management and security under control.

Fortunately leading vendors have the know-how to demonstrate that network convergence can to help bridge the widening gap between what is required of the network in today’s business environment, and what the business is currently capable of delivering.

Network convergence enables multiple services to be delivered on a single network, helping to lower investment and operational costs, and making the network more flexible and adaptive to rapid changes.

Traditionally services at the network edge ran on different equipment and protocols. For instance, unified communications would run on its own network infrastructure while physical security would reside on another.

Adding new services to the edge requires the network administrator to introduce a new overlay of equipment – each with its own software and protocols – resulting in an increasingly complex and costly system that cannot scale easily to meet new demands or growth.

Additionally, the explosions in virtualisation and mobility are also changing the demands on networks. While IT personnel can easily create multiple virtual machines with a few clicks of the mouse, it does not mean that legacy networks are capable of efficiently supporting virtualization.

Like physical servers, a virtual machine applies the same degree of strain to network resources. The full benefits of virtualisation cannot be realised if networks are still running on legacy architectures, built on a fragmented collection of devices and standards.

Finally the growth in numbers of mobile devices connected to the network can only compound the stress. Mobile traffic loads are both bandwidth and latency sensitive, and if the network infrastructure is unable to handle them, application responses will fail.

The era of network convergence

With all these dynamics, it was a natural step for convergence to come into play. Network convergence, which enables multiple communication modes in one network, offers convenience and flexibility that is not possible in isolated infrastructures.

Convergence also enables additional services, uniquely customized to business requirements, to be easily deployed, managed, and modified.

Furthermore, a consolidated network operation leads to reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) through fewer vendors and leasing contracts, less need for floor space, and more efficient use of manpower.

It also permits better visibility of future costs and requirements for any technology enhancements.

Open Fabric Edge technology is built on a single operating system (ExtremeXOS), that delivers unified communications, physical security, audio-video bridging and WLAN on a converged network.

This expansion allows organisations to create and manage a highly flexible IT infrastructure, while offering scalability and the capacity to customise based on changing needs.

One often overlooked but crucial component of a converged network is its ability to play nicely with third party applications and services.

Vendors offering network convergence solutions are establishing partnerships with other technology players.

These partnerships are important as they grant inter-vendor operability, eliminating the risk of proprietary lock-in for businesses, and also allow rapid deployment of services with which the businesses are already familiar.

Finally network convergence helps businesses save on investment and operational costs, while increasing manageability and flexibility.

It allows deployment of new applications in less time without requiring a new overlay; and can be scaled up or down depending on business needs. Such convergence lays the foundation for an organisation’s move into virtualisation and the cloud.

By Joy Ghosh, Vice President, Asia Pacific and Japan, Extreme Networks