As edge networks gain prominence — led by IT organizations’ need to provide data-hungry features that offer real-time value such as mobility, analytics, location-based services, and personalization — the era of consolidated and centralized data network resources is coming to a close. Up-and-coming technologies associated with cloud computing, machine-to-machine systems, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are set to balloon the number of connected devices in our everyday lives, with everything from wearables to automobiles to home appliances sending and receiving vast amounts of data.
Cloud and IoT connections stand to dominate the future — that is, if the infrastructure to support their meteoric rise can keep up. Gartner predicts that by 2018, at least 30% of service-centric companies will move the majority of their ERP applications to the cloud, and that by 2020 the IoT could include 26 billion connected units. The highly personal and interactive nature of the data uses of these devices, not to mention the sheer volume of added load upon network resources, will necessitate an infrastructure with high-reliability, increased intelligence, and data handling nearer to users for a reliable, low latency experience.
The critical nature of this cloud-based connectivity means that today’s edge would do well to rely on out-of-band management (OOBM) to boost the resilience of distributed enterprise networks. With the average cost-per-minute of unplanned network downtime estimated to be around $7,900— and the true costs factoring in lost productivity and expenses associated with repairs rising above that — it’s no longer cost-effective or really even an option for networks to be anything less than highly resilient. Additionally, this cost figure has increased 41% in just three years; extrapolating that rise even linearly leads to numbers that make a powerful case for investment in robust connectivity solutions. Of course, natural disasters, power outages, and failing networks are part of a business’ reality and can never be fully eliminated, but OOBM can do a great deal to reduce the impact of these unforeseeable events.
Edge networks are comprised of many components working in tandem, including routers/firewalls/VPNs, Ethernet switches, virtual desktop servers, local storage, and UPS and power switches. During an outage, OOBM enables remote access and management of these components over an alternate network, such as a separate dial-up or cellular connection. Some smart OOBM solutions can use multiple appliances to keep a complete edge network operational. For cloud-based systems where maintaining business continuity is critical, OOBM offers backup secure remote management complete with event logging and alerts, and the monitoring of appliance power levels, network availability, server performance, etc.
Depending on the features available in out-of-band appliances from different vendors, OOBM can feature a choice of device types (RS232 consoles/USB consoles), digital alarms, environmental sensors, power outage/power reboot control, auto remediation, local storage to recover device configuration/images, or integrated OOB connectivity with 4G cellular down to dialup. Cloud-based remote management can enable always-available system data, useful for predicting and reacting to system failures and delivering system intelligence capable of quick reactions, such as shutting down systems before harm is done in order to reduce repair costs and downtime. Vendors vary in their offerings, from spot solutions for certain parts of the network to solutions that check all the boxes for full coverage of an enterprise edge network’s reliability needs.
The possibilities of the cloud are nearly as endless as the sky over a remote South Dakotan data center, and the data needs of every individual user will rise just about that high as the predicted next-generation technologies take hold. Another major advantage of robust networking at the edge is in placing greater network intelligence lower to the ground. A world packed with cloud and IoT devices will highly value the benefits of more intelligent real-time decision making, deep analysis of data with lower latencies, and increased data storage available close at hand.
High-resilience, always-available connectivity will be the must-have feature in the future of online networks. When network failure events come to mean not just computers being offline but the core functionality of thousands of household devices failing, the ability to quickly identify and remedy connection issues between relied-upon devices and remote infrastructure will be of vital importance. This is a challenge for which out-of-band managed enterprise edge networks can provide the solution.