Remember the days when upgrading your network hardware meant putting infrastructure in place that would last about a decade? Those were the days. Maybe you made a jump to CAT 6 cabling in your office, knowing that it would get the job done for a long time and you wouldn’t have to worry about a similar project for years. Perhaps you added capacity to your WAN and thought you were set for a while. This was the norm. Network capacity changes tended to come gradually, and you could generally put backhaul systems in place that would be effective for five to 10 years, longer if you were lucky, making it much easier to handle the costs and complexity of a network upgrade. Future-proofing was part of the investment process.

Those days are gone. Cloud computing, big data, widespread mobile device use and increased video consumption are turning long-standing network practices on their heads. The concept of future-proofing the network is unrealistic in an era when WAN demands are skyrocketing, fueled by data-rich cloud apps and user bases that want to stream video anytime, anywhere. The LAN has it just as bad, especially as organizations need to create backhaul for gigabit wireless access points. With both LAN and WAN systems struggling to keep pace with data demands, future-proofing through hardware is rarely a realistic option.

Businessman reaching for holographic play button with his finger

Enterprise WANs – New challenges driving changing methodologies

For a long time, the WAN wasn’t really a big deal for businesses. WAN services primarily deliver data that comes from the web, and use of the public Internet in the workplace was largely based around people accessing text-focused content. Most enterprise apps were housed in the corporate data center and delivered via the LAN. Over time, of course, websites became more sophisticated and slow load times could be problematic, but that challenge was nothing compared to what came next. Over the past few years, cloud services have become so pervasive that many users access the majority of their tech services through the Web, and companies are also getting more aggressive about using video for live stream events and on-demand content.

All of the new information types moving through the WAN make future-proofing your network nearly impossible. The hardware that is in place is only gradually moving forward as telecoms upgrade infrastructure and offer new business Ethernet services. Adding dedicated network links is sometimes possible, but also incredibly costly. You can’t just depend on upping your WAN service from telecoms to keep up with demand. But that’s only the first part of the problem. Once the data gets from the WAN into your LAN, you must also have your internal network ready to handle the influx of information.

A network is only as good as its weakest part.

Enterprise LANs – Dealing with bottlenecks

A network is only as good as its weakest part. As data moves from the WAN into your LAN and out to end users, key branching points out to different groups can become major bottlenecks. This is especially true as big data, video and data-rich cloud apps come in through the WAN. The “data center without walls” movement has moved more data out of core systems and through access networks, and this diversity of large data channels has made bottlenecks a major problem in LANs.

On top of all of this, organizations face the challenge of getting their LAN systems ready to handle gigabit Wi-Fi services, often layered across multiple segregated wireless networks. The LAN often provides backhaul for Wi-Fi access points, and your system must be ready to handle those data demands.

Breaking down network barriers

Capacity is, on its own, a huge problem in WANs. Bottlenecks and backhaul challenges are marking LAN systems. So the next natural step would be to make a network upgrade. If you are following legacy ideologies, the thought would be to make an upgrade that will leave you set for the next five to 10 years. After all, the hardware, cabling and time investment that goes into this kind of upgrade is huge. But what will network demands look like a decade from now?

We are already creating more data in years than humanity has generated over the course of centuries. People are shooting video and uploading it to social channels casually, and businesses are using this increased video functionality to create engaging content for workers. Leading smartphones are even offering 4K video capture functions. How much hardware would you really need to future proof your network for the next decade? Not many businesses can afford that kind of investment.

Software-defined technologies, like enterprise content delivery networks, are changing the future-proofing game.

Hundreds of wires plugged into multiple sockets tied up as neat as possible

Legacy network future-proofing models can’t keep up with rising data demands.

Using ECDNs to redefine future-proofing

An ECDN service is essentially a hosted content delivery network. The service provider houses an advanced network controller that uses software-defined technologies to add intelligent routing to your network. From there, the controller works within your existing hardware to route data to users through the most effective pathway possible, avoiding bottlenecks, minimizing the amount of data trying to move through the WAN simultaneously and avoiding issues like dropped data packets that cause major problems for enterprise video strategies and other data-rich content types.

Organizations can’t expect to build a network to last five or 10 years anymore. Data demands are escalating too quickly. However, they can subscribe to a service where the vendor continues to advance its hardware and software-defined functions to support client needs for an extended period. Hardware can’t prepare your network for the future, but ECDNs give you the intelligent routing you need to future proof your existing infrastructure.