Reimagining the edge
While the importance of the cloud is obvious to anyone, the increasing importance of the edge is often overlooked. As digitization and the Internet of Things are leading to an exponential growth in the number of devices, the amount of data that is being generated by sensors in devices such as self-driving-cars, mobile endpoints and people tracking systems for retail is astronomical. Analyzing and turning that data into immediate actions is key to success in the era of digitization. The cloud enables massive data storage and processing, but it does not always lend itself to real time processing and immediate actions. Latency and the sheer amount of data to be transmitted are much less of a factor for the edge compared to the data center. In order to make instant decisions, some of the data processing needs to happen at the edge. At the same time, a large number of employees no longer work form the corporate HQ, but have ever increasing expectations with regards to application access regardless of their physical location. Distributed computing across the edge, along with high performance cloud access and distributed security enforcement give organizations “the edge”. Centralizing management and operations with distributed control and enforcement could define the Next-Generation Branch.
Challenges with legacy branch architecture
While digital transformation has lead to organizations embracing the Software-Defined Data Center, the Remote and Branch Office (ROBO) infrastructure has remained largely unchanged. The static nature of branch architecture does not only result in high operational expenses, but also slows down the organization as it impacts the rollout of new applications to those branches. Bringing up a new branch typically involves shipping and configuring a number of infrastructure hardware and appliances, such as pairs of firewalls, routers, file/print servers, point of sale, etc. The logistics involved with getting those appliances delivered and configured is complex, slow, and often requires specialized personnel to spend time on site. Sending CCIE certified engineers out to branch locations to configure a branch router is not a rarity, and yet certainly not scalable nor efficient. These challenges extend beyond the initial branch deployment, as any change to the branch infrastructure or even day-to-day management and operations of a large number of branches, each with their own stack of appliances is a heavy lift operation.