Is a cloud-managed network right for your business?


Successful businesses have mastered how to manage their network and leverage it as a platform to engage staff and customers. Increased dependency, combined with the need for pervasive connectivity, greater insights and control over behavior, is driving organisations to embrace a cloud-managed network (CMN) model.

A CMN uses a software as a service (SaaS) model to securely deliver ease-of-use and simplicity for control and analytics of on premise devices being deployed over geographically-dispersed organisations. At the same time, a CMN can maintain physical and software-based security for the critical network switching and wireless infrastructure located on premise.

The rapid evolution of wireless LANs

In a relatively short period of time, wireless LANs have seen tremendous progress. From the first IEEE 802.11b wireless standard introduced in the late 90s to today’s 802.11ac Wave 2 standard, we have seen major increases in throughput as access points (APs) continue to evolve. These advancements are paving the way for increases in wireless performance and promising a future of even higher speeds.

The latest generation of on-premise wireless is built with strong security enablement between wireless clients and APs, as well as secure management, control and data plane traffic between APs and the controller. For larger installations, an independent and centralised management system can be deployed to manage multiple controllers and their associated APs, as well as the wired network. Today’s wireless architecture is well-suited for the CMN – a merger of wireless with the SaaS model.

The ins and outs of a cloud-managed network

CMNs bring the benefits of the cloud to enterprise networking, delivering easy to use, cost effective wired and wireless networks that are centrally managed and controlled over the web. CMNs offer a full-fledged alternative to the on premise managed network. With a CMN, the management and control plane traffic is hosted from the cloud while data plane traffic and the devices (APs, switches, etc.) stay on premise.

CMNs are built using a multi-tenant architecture for the cloud resident controller type functionality. Physical and virtual cloud based network resources adapt to network expansion or contraction based on individual customer demand. Smaller locations and remote locations lacking sufficient onsite IT to provide support for the more traditional on premise-managed solutions can reap large benefits by using the CMN approach.

Benefits of a cloud-managed network

The goal of a CMN is to simplify deployment, management and control over network infrastructure devices, such as wireless APs and switches, and provide operational savings. With the management platform residing securely in the cloud, the need to purchase, deploy, maintain, power, secure and locate network appliances on premise is eliminated, reducing CapEx. OpEx is also reduced as IT no longer needs to worry about on premise network management platforms, software updates or sending IT resources to remote locations for installations and troubleshooting.

There are many other benefits to using a CMN for your business. On premise wireless controllers are not required in the CMN model where the data-plane and control plane are distributed to the AP’s at each site, while the management plane is maintained in the cloud.

Easy to deploy, use and centrally manage, CNMs are a good option for geographically dispersed organisations with multiple locations. Software updates are pushed out from the cloud to the on premise access points and switches, reducing risk and easing the burden on IT. Cloud-managed wireless provides elasticity and instant scalability and network expansion is pay as you grow so you buy only what you need.

Evaluating cloud-managed solutions

A cloud-managed network can be a great total cost (TCO) saver, however at some point the cloud-managed networks TCO may start to exceed that of on premise solution TCO, so it’s crucial to run the numbers to ensure an optimal outcome. Carefully compare the expected product life of on premise managed verses cloud-managed deployments. The TCO should include the number of CMN devices, subscription fees, size and requirements of your organisation, trained IT staff available, user requirements and integration with existing infrastructure, applications and users. It is also worth noting that larger, geographically dispersed organizations might find that the benefits of functionality like ease-of-use, zero touch device deployment and management provide more advantages than just looking at the device TCO of an on premise solution.

Additionally, you might want to start with a CMN and move to an on premise managed solution as your business grows and requirements change, so make sure that the equipment you select has the flexibility to move from a cloud to on premise without a rip and replace.