By Elka Popova, Vice President and Senior Fellow, Connected Work and Digital Experience @ Frost & Sullivan

If you have been following along on this guest blog series about Frost & Sullivan’s Modern LAN principles, I hope you’ve come to some of the same conclusions that my colleagues and I have reached: Today’s local area network is a vastly different environment than the PC-centric one of only a couple of years ago. A different environment requires not only a new way of thinking about network design but also a new toolbox of solutions to support an increasingly diverse set of network endpoints.

Each of the previous blog posts laid the groundwork for the need for a new set of best practices—what we call the Modern LAN principles. Modern LAN design recognizes the greater role that IoT is playing in both our businesses and our networks (Build the network around the devices you’re really using), as well as a reminder that all the work we do today should be done in a responsible and sustainable manner (Reduce, Reuse, Refocus Applies to the Network Too). In addition, Modern LAN principles break down some of the conventional wisdom when it comes to dealing with the new normal of connecting endpoints (The New Normal for Modern LANs), as well as a bit of a return to an older way of thinking about physical networks, suggesting that physically separate but functionally integrated IP network paths is the best approach to more efficiently manage the local area network, as well as a clever approach to dealing with ongoing and unanticipated cybersecurity threats (Why Segregating the Network Just Makes Sense).

As I helped develop the Modern LAN principles with my Frost & Sullivan colleagues, I have become convinced of two things. First, I believe that network administrators and solution architects will benefit by applying even one of these design principles in their own local area networks. Case in point: Just by leveraging the Modern LAN principle around environmental sustainability, the IT department can start to move from being the biggest producer of e-waste in the organization to a champion of sustainability and corporate responsibility.

Secondly, and most importantly, I firmly believe that the benefits of Modern LAN design actually multiply when they are applied together. Starting with an outside-in approach, administrators can begin to right-size the network to match the requirements of deployed endpoints. From there, clear opportunities to reuse existing cabling infrastructure begin to emerge, as well as the ability to start conversations about dividing these devices into physically separated but logically integrated networks. At the same time, outside-in efforts will shed needed light on what used to be considered network exceptions, bringing these increasingly common issues well into the fold of network design.

Together, the Modern LAN principles offer what network administrators need most: a highly flexible, cyber secure and agile local area network design. By prescribing to the Modern LAN principles, network architects and administrators can build networks that are environmentally conscious and better prepared for the rapidly-approaching connected future, all while putting money back in the IT budget for other projects.

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To learn more, read the whitepaper “The Modern LAN: Rethinking Network Design for the Modern Age”, available at www.themodernlan.org

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By Roopashree Honnachari, Industry Director for Business Communication Services & Cloud Computing at Frost & Sullivan

In our ongoing research here are Frost & Sullivan, we tend to think about Ethernet and Internet Protocol (IP) in terms of watershed moments: The two standards came together to replace the disparate networks businesses once relied on to enable communications and data transfer. Before Ethernet and IP, the communications network (phones connected to a central call control unit or PBX), the security network (cameras and access control connected to a dedicated system) and the data network were delivered over their own dedicated infrastructure and cabling. Ethernet and IP offered the promise of a single network on which all systems can interoperate, while also delivering the economies of scale that come with a shared infrastructure.

Unfortunately, several unintended consequences have taken some of the shine off the idea of an integrated network. Rather than serving as a beacon of interoperability, today’s business networks can quickly add to the workload and stress of network administrators. Each of the once-discrete networks comes with its own unique set of requirements, which are often at odds with one another. In dealing with conflicts, many admins find themselves tweaking and readjusting network settings or creating a complex set of virtual LAN (vLAN) policies. As the name suggests, the vLAN approach divides the physical network into a series of logical ones; it’s an administrator-intensive effort, devices often land in the wrong place, slowing performance, as well as increasing costs and network complexity.

In addition, ongoing cyber threats to the entire network remain, meaning that rogue apps, malware or denial of service attacks have the potential to take down not only PCs and business applications but also critical security and communications devices. Likewise, with more and more IoT endpoints connected to the network, new attack vectors are available to hackers to disrupt all of a business’ connected devices.

As Frost & Sullivan analysts across several research practices came together to develop a new set of best practices for local area networks, we factored both ongoing security threats as well as network simplification into what we call the “Modern LAN principles.” To address both the opportunity and challenges of network convergence, we included this recommendation:

When possible, construct physically separate but functionally integrated IP network paths for different and dedicated applications, ensuring mission-critical platforms are not impacted by disruptions or intrusions of the primary business network. By doing so, organizations have the option to create separate networks or connect them on site or in the cloud with a single cable.

So, what does a “physically separate but functionally integrated” network look like? In the diagram below, you will notice that the IP camera and IPTV in the upper right corner are physically separated from the PC network in the center and the IoT sensors on the left. This has two advantages. First, management of the throughput, power and configuration needs of the camera can be managed separately from the PC network, largely eliminating the need for vLAN configurations. Second, in the event of a cyber attack on the IoT or PC network, the security network is protected by its own firewall. And if a rapid response is needed, it can be unplugged from the rest of the network and operated independently. The PC and IoT networks can also operate in an independent but integrated fashion as needed.

“Physically separate but functionally integrated” is just one of several design best practices incorporated in the Modern LAN. To learn more, read the whitepaper “The Modern LAN: Rethinking Network Design for the Modern Age”, available at https://go.frost.com/Lan

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Learn more at http://themodernlan.org/

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By Melanie Turek, Vice President of Research, Connected Work, Frost & Sullivan

Ask most network architects about the local area networks they manage, and they will likely regale you with a clear list of their preferred networking vendors and products for each of their environments. One thing that rarely comes up: the exceptions that lurk within every corporate LAN.

Exceptions are the one-offs, such as that IP phone on the loading dock that is just a little too far away from the nearest wiring closet to connect via standard Ethernet, or using dongles and an existing coaxial cable to plug a security camera into the network. All but the most generic of local area networks contain these dirty little secrets; the network administrators and architects I’ve spoken to will admit to them only grudgingly, with a wink and a nod.

The challenge, however, is that with the convergence of technologies on the LAN—including not only communications and security devices, but a whole fleet of IoT sensors and endpoints—the risks posed by seemingly benign one-off exceptions are all too real. That casual wink and nod could easily turn into a look of dread as more and more networked devices require non-standard equipment to work as desired—and blow up any semblance of network optimization, performance and security in the process. What’s more, administrators could find themselves dealing with scores of unique fixes, without relying on the rigorous processes that are foundational to any successful IT operation.

Helping companies deal with such exceptions is just one of several challenges Frost & Sullivan’s analyst team aimed to mitigate as we developed a new set of best practices for local area networks, which we are calling the “Modern LAN.” The solution: When it comes to dealing with exceptions, it is time to stop treating them as exceptions.

As non-traditional devices become the norm, network architects simply must come to terms with the fact that solutions such as Long-Reach Power over Ethernet (LRPoE) switches must be included as part of the approved network architecture, even if that means deploying new network design techniques and technologies. It also means being open to the possibility of including new suppliers and certifying new products as part of corporate-approved solutions. Incorporating and supporting a wider array of compatible network infrastructure gear gives both architects and the administrators in the field a fresh set of tools to deploy networks reflective of the devices that are making their way into corporate offices, shop floors and remote sites.

“Dealing with Exceptions” is just one of several design best practices incorporated in the Modern LAN. To learn more, read the whitepaper “The Modern LAN: Rethinking Network Design for the Modern Age”, available at http://themodernlan.org/ 

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By Michael Brandenburg, Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst, Connected Work

We have entered the era of corporate responsibility and sustainability: Organizations of all sizes are being asked to think much harder about the environmental impact of the products they produce, from manufacturing to disposal. Environmental responsibility also extends to the corporate office, moving well beyond “don’t print this email,” signatures to sustainable construction, smart buildings and the deployment of IT.

Indeed, thanks to scheduled rollouts, standard “rip and replace” practices and the planned obsolescence of computer and network infrastructure, corporate IT departments are a significant contributor to electronic waste. As part of our in-depth research into local network design, it became clear to us here at Frost & Sullivan that environmental sustainability simply must be an important consideration when deploying today’s business networks, what we call the Modern LAN. The Modern LAN principles, developed by Frost & Sullivan, seek to develop a new set of best practices around local network design—and in the process, focus on sustainability.

In our research, we have discovered that the local network, with all the cabling and infrastructure to support it, is an excellent place to start. The traditional way of building networks applied a “one size fits all” approach to network architecture, and whenever the network is upgraded to the latest speeds and feeds, a lot of older switchgear gets turned into e-waste, even more new cabling gets shoved into the walls and some devices, like IP phones and IoT sensors, receive more bandwidth than they really need.

In contrast, our Modern LAN includes sustainability as a best practice, rather than a vague goal to strive for: “Develop an environmentally responsible framework around LAN design and deployment. Re-use and repurpose existing endpoint cabling infrastructure, reduce IDF closet requirements and adopt energy-efficient PoE switches and end points wherever possible.”

What this really means

  • Reduce e-waste by replacing only the network and infrastructure that is absolutely necessary. PCs and servers may need the latest gigabit and above speeds, but those phones, security cameras and smart building sensors do not. Break the rip and replace cycle on network endpoints that won’t take advantage of the upgrades.
  • Reuse and repurpose network and cabling infrastructure, because not every network device requires brand new CAT6 cabling to operate. Many robust and reliable Long Reach Power over Ethernet (LRPoE) solutions on the market today let IT reclaim that long-lost twisted-pair and coax cabling to support any number of IoT endpoints.

Achieving sustainability in IT may seem like a daunting task, but it really just takes some out of the box thinking and a willingness to take advantage of what it is already in place. Environmental sustainability is just one of several design best practices incorporated in the Modern LAN. To learn more, read the whitepaper The Modern LAN: Rethinking Network Design for the Modern Age

Thank you, Michael, for your expert insight into Modern LAN design. Keep it locked on the NVT Phybridge news page for more industry analysis into the Modern LAN principles.

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By Dilip Srangan, Frost & Sullivan Global Research Director, Internet of Things (IoT) & Digital Transformation

Here at Frost & Sullivan, my colleagues and I have been looking at the conventional wisdom associated with building and supporting local area networks, and we came away with a serious question: Is the current way to do things actually the best way to support the Internet of Things (IoT)? The answer, it seems, is no.

The IoT has a significant impact on business networks, and all of the related requirements—including power, bandwidth and even where devices are deployed—are unique from anything else on the network. As a result, the way most network architects have grown up thinking about the LAN doesn’t work anymore. It’s clear that the industry needs a modern approach to network design. Modern LAN principles, developed by Frost & Sullivan, seek to develop a new set of best practices around local network design.

The first principle guiding Modern LAN design is one that particularly speaks to the challenge of incorporating IoT into a local area network: Adopt an outside-in approach to local area network design and planning. Before new endpoints are deployed, network managers must identify the power, bandwidth and application requirements of each unique physical device, in order to determine the best topology and infrastructure to support it.

Most network designs focus on the core network and move out to the devices that run on it. That delivers a homogeneous network, but it ignores the needs of the devices themselves—and the business benefits that said devices provide. If they take this approach as they embrace the IoT, businesses will likely pay for network bandwidth they don’t need, create a power over Ethernet (PoE) distribution nightmare and rack up a very large cabling bill.

The outside-in approach turns the design on its head, focusing on the devices at the end of the network matching them with the most appropriate network switches and power distribution infrastructure. With the outside-in principle applied, the network is more efficient and optimized for all the devices that connect to it. That, in turn, ensures better performance, thereby delivering the benefits and ROI promised by digital transformation and the IoT. Businesses can even save a few bucks by using existing and still useful wiring.

Outside-in is just one of several design best practices incorporated in the Modern LAN. To learn more, read the whitepaper “The Modern LAN: Rethinking Network Design for the Modern Age”.

Thank you, Dilip for your expert insight into Modern LAN design. Keep it locked on the NVT Phybridge news page for more industry analysis into the Modern LAN principles.

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