Edge Networking

Ever since the introduction of software as a service (SaaS), it has spearheaded the race in innovation of on-demand software deployment across the globe. The flexibility it provides, and the ease of integration made possible by its cloud computing architecture, has caused it to be the standard for the delivery of business applications.

In a SaaS model, the trifecta of an optimal user experience involves seamless setup, low latency, and high security. With the arrival of content delivery networks and its widespread geographical distribution of data centers, it was possible to reduce the distance between the server and the user, thereby reducing latency and improving application performance.

What is the problem with conventional SaaS?

With an increase in the demand for enterprise-level scaling of applications, organizations need to ensure that their infrastructure supports the applications and workloads on-premises. To keep up with the scalability demand, IT ecosystems have evolved from a simple combination of network components to a highly complex architecture involving communication modules, cloud infrastructure, distributed systems, and a lot more. This complex architecture restricts connectivity and accessibility into customer environments, and this restriction is one of the primary barriers to delivering an optimal user experience. Increased latency, slow bandwidth speed, difficulty in scaling remote infrastructures, and integration issues among others, demands a networking architecture that delivers the best cloud-deployed services without any compromise in quality of services.

What is edge networking?

Before discussing edge networking in depth, let's learn about the reason behind this architecture. A network core is the main infrastructure that hosts all the components within a network, including those that provide services to the nodes at the endpoint. The network edge refers to the area where the local network interfaces with the internet and is in effect, the entry point to the network.

Edge network management involves moving the business-critical components just beyond the network core, and onto the networking edge of the infrastructure. The primary purpose of edge networking is the successful distribution or routing of application workloads to make applications more resilient and the organizations less dependent on the data centers. This split networking architecture as implemented in edge networking enables efficient real-time application operations, and optimizing the delivery of digital resources.

This network edge acts as a critical security boundary, and it is crucial that the network administrators deploy effective solutions for its upkeep and maintenance.

Edge networking vs. edge computing

Although edge networking and edge computing are internally linked, and the terms are often used synonymously, they are fundamentally different. Modern IT infrastructures are set up in a way that allows applications and data to be processed in private data centers, public clouds, or a combination of both (referred to as hybrid clouds). While edge computing aims to supervise the operations of the network that happen away from the core, edge networking focuses on the routing architecture used to direct the flow of traffic away form the core, and optimizing that architecture to support edge computing.

When implemented correctly, edge networking and edge computing complement each other, resulting in more efficient performance for today's increasingly complex network operations. Organizations achieve fast and reliable services for end users by deploying redundant, secure, and optimized applications hosted on a dedicated network edge platform.

Benefits of edge networking

Edge networking addresses many of the connectivity-induced challenges faced in the hybrid-cloud architecture of SaaS. Some of its key benefits include:

  • Speed: Moving data processing to the edge refines the system response for end users, enabling faster transactions or operations that are crucial in real-time, where even milliseconds make a difference.
  • Security: An edge networking solution increases data security by limiting the flow of data across the network. The Zero Trust security model does not allow any traffic to move within the network unless it has been validated by the edge components, and this ensures that the entire network infrastructure is safe from vulnerabilities and threats.
  • Efficiency: Edge networking helps conserve network resources by routing unnecessary traffic away from the network core. Offloading the burden from the core reduces latency and bandwidth issues caused by bottlenecks in the movement of data, and improves server optimization.
  • Scalability: Compared to conventional data center architecture, an edge network can be scaled up more easily according to traffic demands and user requirements. It is more reasonable to add an edge server to address a specific aspect of service delivery, rather than provision an existing server at the data center to accomplish the same.
  • Reliability: Splitting the data center architecture into the network core and the network edge creates a global web of isolated (yet connected) smaller data centers that deliver connectivity to remote locations, and provide increased bandwidth. This ensures that if a failure occurs in any part of the network, the entire infrastructure does not go down.
  • Reduced costs: Delivering data and services from edge points instead of the network core reduces application costs by limiting the requests made between the users and the application/service provider. Instead of extending the infrastructure to cater to user needs, organizations can employ edge networking to extend the network access using edge nodes.

Features of edge networking

Devices that sit on the network edge and control the entry into the network, range from simple routers, modems, switches, and IoT devices, to more complex components like integrated access devices, network access devices, wireless access points, multiplexers, and other devices. Effective and efficient access to data and applications is made possible by hosting the resources on the edge itself. This architecture reduces latency, increases throughput, and ensures reliability of the deployed application systems.

Other features of edge networking include:

  • Scalable and flexible application deployment: Because of the split architecture, applications can be deployed on the network edge, without concern for scalability since this wouldn't affect the network core. Moreover, the applications can be setup with the configurations required by the end user irrespective of the physical limitations of the core components.
  • Insights for data processing and traffic: Smarter and more efficient analytics obtained from edge networking give valuable insights regarding the processing of the data and the performance of traffic. These analytics are automated and the analytical computation is accomplished at the edge node instead of the data being sent back to the centralized core for analysis. Consequently, this reduces the overhead loads on the core and contributes significantly to the overall health of the network.
  • API support for integration: Robust and seamless integrations can be made across local and remote services using dedicated APIs running on the edge nodes. This allows for efficient data transfers between the user and the host without involving the core.
  • Support for IoT devices: Deployment of edge networking allows wide range of IoT devices to track and automate some processes internally.
  • WAN Optimization: Edge networking can be coupled with SD-WAN technologies to deliver high quality communications to applications. This extends to implementation in cloud-based and real-time services.

Where is edge networking headed?

Post COVID-19, there has been a shift in the global landscape of business operations. With more organizations going digital, the demand and requirement of IT infrastructures is predicted to grow proportionally. Gartner has predicted a jump in the number of global IoT devices from 8 billion to more than 15 billion devices by the end of 2029. Cisco, together with Omdia, has estimated an annual growth of 10.3% compound annual growth rate in the net market value of edge networking components, which is projected to reach more than $3 billion by 2025.

Edge networking promises massive advantages in terms of data storage, data processing, and network optimization. A global standard for content and application delivery, edge networking takes a distributed approach of network operations management. Legacy data centers and conventional networking architectures could be obsolete in the coming decades, as more enterprises rely on software-defined networks and adopt the cloud computing architecture for seamless service delivery and business operations.

However, no technology is totally fail-proof and edge networks are no exception. Networks, regardless of their architecture and implementation, face threats of unavailability and downtime. A study by Kaspersky reveals that the presence of multiple entry points poses the greatest vulnerability within an edge network. The risk of cyberattacks requires you to safeguard the edge with security systems that operate on a Zero Trust policy (for example, firewalls, VPNs, and Multiprotocol Label Switching). All these components, together with the servers, routers, switches, access points, access devices, and others need to be monitored and managed continually. This increase in the number of edge networking components calls for the comprehensive management of these devices through integrated network monitoring solutions.

The role of OpManager Plus in edge networking

With an increasing alignment towards edge networking, you need robust edge network solutions which can help you monitor and manage such complex architecture. ManageEngine OpManager Plus is an edge network management tool packed with out-of-the-box capabilities for monitoring networks, managing bandwidth and network configurations, analyzing firewall rules, logs, and policies, and tracking application performance and usage. It serves as an integrated network edge solution for system and application observability across your entire enterprise network edge, with features that extend to:

  1. Monitoring the availability and performance of your entire IT infrastructure: Integrated monitoring of all the components of your edge network, including networks, servers, switches, routers, WLCs, LANs, WANs, load balancers, etc. OpManager Plus also gives vivid network visualization and fault management among other features. Learn more.
  2. Tracking of physical storage on the network devices: Manage and monitor your storage devices (RAID libraries, tape libraries, etc.), storage area networks, fabric switches, and more. You can also achieve storage capacity planning with OpManager's predictive capabilities. Learn more.
  3. Managing the dynamic IT environments with the power of machine learning and AIOps: The advanced predictive algorithms and real-time data based calculations employed by OpManager Plus critically monitors and adapts to the ever-changing performance metrics of network devices, predicts, and forecasts highly reliable values regarding the usage metrics. Learn more.
  4. Observing the health and performance of your applications with precision: Achieve complete control over your critical cloud infrastructure and cloud-hosted applications, and ensure that they meet user expectations. Learn more.
  5. Monitoring the changes and bottlenecks in your network: Identify the exact source of anomalous traffic, monitor top talkers, conversations, protocols, and compliance standards across your network. Learn more.
  6. Detecting the blitz of any cyberthreats instantly: Stay aware of malicious attacks, suspicious applications, as well as viruses and worms that could cripple corporate networks and lead to lost business. Learn more.
  7. Fixing bandwidth bottlenecks using configuration change templates: Automate configuration changes by executing commands for critical operations with the help of configlets (configuration script templates). Learn more.

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