In today’s networking climate, enterprises go up against several challenges. These include the increasing unpredictability of consumer demands, network management issues, network security concerns, and the difficulty of maintaining end-to-end visibility, among others.
These challenges have an impact on enterprise service delivery, growth and competitiveness. However, through awareness of these challenges, their causes and the correct approaches to overcoming them, enterprises can stay on track to fulfilling their goals.
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Enterprise Networking Challenges
1) Consumer Shifts
The constant shifts in consumer demand today is consistently unpredictable – which puts stress on enterprise networks. These consumer demands shape the end-to-end services offered by an enterprise by determining how they provide effective product offerings, and prompting them to optimize their direct-to-customer channels.
As the world recovers from a global pandemic, enterprises need to be at par with the shift in consumer demands that were intensified by the pandemic.
Lack of effective network response may be costly to enterprises through lack of products and services and reduced productivity. It may also leave enterprises unable to scale.
2) Product Hype
Product hype surrounding new networking gear is also a potential challenge facing the enterprise network.
This happens when the eagerness of enterprises to implement new enterprise networking products, such as nascent technologies and digital transformation initiatives, means they make the purchase without knowing if the vendors are in true alignment with their goals. They therefore expose themselves to the risk of unforeseen challenges resulting from products that may never meet their expectations.
3) Remote Work
Greatly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has been altering the face of corporate networks. From directing employees to work from home in 2020 to adopting flexible workplace policies later on, hybrid working models are here to stay.
Network teams accommodated the initial remote work shift by adjusting data center bandwidth, implementing VPN policies and distributing work devices, among other approaches. However, it is up to these teams to implement long-term solutions to ensure that remote end-user experience guarantees service availability, maximum efficiency and remote end-user security at the very least. Hence, they face a larger workload.
Furthermore, enterprises face the challenge of managing multi-cloud environments and ensuring that they have full visibility across their network environments. This challenge is made greater by the inadequacy of resources and lack of expertise that plagues cloud networking and enterprises in general.
These talent gaps – where some enterprises are striving to maintain a minimal headcount – leave enterprises understaffed at architecting and operating cloud networks and network security.
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4) Increased data traffic
As annual global IP traffic continues to rise, the amount of business data transferred over corporate networks continues to boom. This gives rise to data-intensive applications that need huge amounts of network traffic. The result is increased demand for greater bandwidth, which results in a strain on existing network infrastructure. Ever-increasing data traffic proves to be especially overwhelming to enterprises without clear frameworks on data organization, management and storage.
To steer clear of the challenges magnified by a boom in data traffic, enterprises can set up policies to improve their data management. They can start by reviewing all their existing data systems to better understand data processes and flows. Enterprises should also assess their infrastructure and determine whether there is a need to carry out upgrades.
Enterprises can also invest in network traffic analysis and monitoring software and services to ensure they are not overwhelmed and ineffective in their network management. These tools and techniques have benefits such as identifying bottlenecks, troubleshooting bandwidth issues, bettering visibility and detecting and fixing security issues.
5) Greater network complexity
Network architectures are becoming more distributed and complex. The time and manpower requirements to manage and secure these network infrastructures have risen. Disparate and isolated network solutions are on the rise.
As a result, the cost of offering reliable network bandwidth has increased. Enterprises struggle to oversee the installation, maintenance and upgrading of their network infrastructure to satisfy security, bandwidth and speed requirements. This impacts the ability of enterprises to scale their networks as they struggle to meet their network capacity needs to support growth.
5G promises increased speed, lower latency and greater reliability. However, the move to 5G spells greater network complexity accompanied by user expectations of higher quality of experience. Control plane and user plane separation, alongside 5G’s standalone cloud-native network functions and services-based architectures, drive up network complexity. This may prove overwhelming to service providers, and the effects may ripple through to enterprises.
Enterprises can work with managed network service providers (MNSPs) to take advantage of the resources and expertise they leverage to handle their network management, problems and limitations. They can also seek solutions that combine automation and visibility to offer greater control across the network. Implementing SD-WAN solutions promises to reduce not only network complexity but also the total cost of ownership.
6) Intensifying cybersecurity concerns
Increased network complexity can magnify, expose or open up network security gaps. Security teams are expected to monitor and manage events across a vast and unconnected ecosystem in many cases. These networks provide a greater attack surface as they have more points of interaction and entry for threat actors to target. Furthermore, cybercriminals are using more sophisticated tools to improve the effectiveness of their attacks.
The challenge of securing the network perimeter has greatly impacted enterprise cybersecurity. However, networks in larger enterprises today may have their perimeters represented by IaaS, PaaS, SaaS solutions, IoT and mobile devices, and cloud-based and on-premise solutions, reflecting the trend away from the traditional network perimeter. Such an undefined perimeter may prove to be quite a task to secure. Additionally, in SDN, the controller is central to maintaining a secure network. As it is centralized, it proves to be a single point of failure.
Enterprises can also implement unified security solutions to optimize visibility and detect and prevent attacks across their networks. They can also consider secure access service edge (SASE) solutions to ease network security for decentralized workforces. Lastly, the possible vulnerability of the SDN controller can be mitigated by implementing controller redundancy on the network with automated fail-over.
7) End-to-end network visibility
Achieving true and continuous end-to-end network visibility remains a challenge to the high-performance, cost-effective and secure infrastructure that enterprises seek. Monitoring service assurance has become more complicated while enterprise operations are even more dependent on the availability of high-performance applications. As many monitoring solutions are fragmented, they introduce different data sources and different levels of granularity.
Additionally, the desired network visibility is hindered by business applications evolving from monolithic to microservices architectures. Microservices use lightweight APIs to communicate across networks. This adds more traffic to the network. More complexity is added by the ease of spinning up virtual machines and applications running in temporary containers.
To take a step towards end-to-end visibility, enterprises need to base visibility on network traffic data. Wire data should be their true source of truth. Using wire data for end-to-end visibility incorporates unhindered views into the dependencies cutting across networks, servers, applications, databases and service enablers. Such data can be used to assess refactor and enhance networks and applications.
The Future of Challenges to the Network
The increase in network complexity plays a central role in most of the challenges above, which highlights the increasing scope of responsibility that network teams have. Most notably, enterprise security will prove to be a dominant challenge considering the rapid evolution of the technology and business landscapes, as well as the major advancements happening in various industries.
For example, the adoption of 5G will lead to more data tethered in the cloud, including sensitive enterprise data. Additionally, through their software-defined security perks, the popularity of SD-WAN architectures and SASE platforms will continue to rise as decentralized workforces become more prominent.