In Cradlepoint’s new State of the Network 2017 Business Intelligence Report, one trend is quite clear: Legacy WANs, which are predominately based on wired lines, hardware-defined, and resource-intensive infrastructures, can’t keep pace with the rapidly changing needs of today’s lean and agile connected enterprise.
This report, featuring data from more than 100 surveyed enterprise decision-makers, explores how companies of all sizes are being challenged to expand their networks to more people, places, and things. Several key findings emerged from the research, including:
Approximately 60 percent of IT pros indicated they were already deploying LTE as a WAN connectivity solution.
Our research — and experience — indicates that the majority of enterprises have indeed deployed LTE for primary or backup WAN connectivity. But what that looks like can vary across industries as well as within a company itself. Individual departments may be setting up applications for lead generation or customer analytics as they work to determine how to better engage customers and create a better customer experience.
For example, because marketing departments have such an impact on company revenue, a marketing team’s IT budget often is separate from the IT department’s budget. Sometimes referred to as “Marketing IT,” this type of arrangement can be beneficial for the entire company. A bank can set up a physically separate and secure network connection using 4G LTE to deploy digital signage throughout its branches without requiring the IT department to go through a lengthy security review, because the application is on a separate network. With 4G LTE, marketing teams can quickly, cost-effectively, and securely set up customer-facing applications that directly drive additional revenue.
This type of deployment doesn’t necessarily mean a company or department is bypassing IT or giving short shrift to security; it simply means everyone is using technology solutions to increase profits and efficiency for the company.
The 40 percent of IT teams who, according to our research, indicated they are not yet deploying LTE as a WAN connectivity solution may simply not realize that such a deployment is possible or how much easier LTE depoyment has become in recent years. Many customers discover the benefits of LTE as WAN after speaking with their wireless carrier representative.
Many of the 40 percent who are falling behind aren’t constrained by technology barriers, but instead a lack of up-to-date information. Staying competitive requires staying informed on wireless broadband solutions.
Bandwidth (30 percent) and cost (30 percent) are considered the dominant WAN connectivity challenges, according to respondents.
Many CIOs have built their networks around traditional connectivity. Many of them are using legacy MPLS networks, which are fairly expensive wired connectivity solutions with constrained throughput. The throughput offered through MPLS may have seemed impressive 10 years ago, but it’s no longer adequate to run all of the new data-hungry applications, including video and customer WiFi.
As companies add new applications to their networks, CIOs often classify them into two key areas: core applications and noncore applications. Those classified as core traditionally involve the essentials for keeping a business up and running, such as processing credit card payments.
As the amount of noncore applications continues to grow, a company’s legacy WAN network faces increasing pressure. Applications such as security systems, video surveillance, and customer WiFi all strain bandwidth. Yet if a company looks to increase bandwidth on its MPLS, the costs can be significant.
Consequently, companies are instead looking to add multi-WAN capabilities. They may still choose to keep MPLS for critical functions, such as processing credit cards, but also are looking to offload noncore applications to the traditional internet. This reduces bandwidth pressure while allowing you to offload these applications to lower-cost WAN options such as LTE.
Approximately 57 percent of IT pros cite security as the most important feature they would look for in an SD-WAN solution.
Many IT teams are paying for MPLS networks because they have the perception of being secure, and because it’s the way things have been done for quite some time. Yet using SD-WAN — i.e., using multiple WANs at the same time and securely steering traffic based on application-specific policies — can leverage lower-cost, higher-bandwidth broadband Internet while maintaining high levels of security.
Solutions such as Cradlepoint NetCloud leverage the Internet and virtual technologies to extend the traditional enterprise network. This integrated platform provides an entirely new way to build, secure, control, and manage end-to-end private networks in the cloud using wired and wireless broadband Internet services.
Half of IT pros said increased flexibility/agility gives LTE an advantage over traditional wired connectivity solutions, while 39 percent said efficiency is another key advantage.
Flexibility/agility, redundancy/reliability, and efficiency are interconnected. As LTE networks evolve, the speeds that companies can get out of their LTE networks have surpassed the speeds they get from traditional wired networking. As standards continue to evolve every 18 months or so, speeds continue to increase significantly.
Actually, companies can make the entire connectivity process more efficient. Enterprises with multiple locations — such as convenience stores or banks with branches — may end up contracting with dozens of wired line service providers. Switching the entire company, including these remote branches, to wireless 4G LTE eliminates the problems associated with wired connections, minimizes the number of monthly invoices, and reduces the number of support calls while improving reliability in the process.
In the past, few IT analyst firms anticipated LTE’s rapid rise as an enterprise WAN option. Today, however, some of the top enterprise IT research firms are actively recommending 4G LTE for the enterprise.