Decentralized Network Architecture Trends: What’s Driving the Need?

If you’ve been involved in IT management in any way during the past ten years, you’ve no doubt noticed network architecture is being transformed. It’s trending toward a decentralized model where enterprises increasingly rely on a variety of IT and connectivity providers for network infrastructure and management.

Three of the key drivers of these decentralized network architectures are the widespread adoption of cloud technologies, the need to deliver performance “at the edge” to accommodate the growing number of innovative applications and larger volumes of data generated, and the economic need to lower network infrastructure and management costs. Each of these drivers is forcing enterprise IT organizations to rethink the way they architect, deploy and manage network infrastructure and services.

1.   Cloud Adoption

Cloud technologies have convincingly proven their value, allowing enterprises to host applications, store data and deploy resources on-demand far more efficiently than on-premises data centers. There’s no single approach to cloud strategy. Enterprises have implemented a range of cloud environments, with many opting to connect their on-premises data centers with one or more cloud service providers to deliver new applications or extend their reach to new geographies.

According to the latest RightScale State of the Cloud Report 58% of respondents employ a hybrid cloud strategy, 17% use multiple public clouds and 9% opt for multiple private clouds. Summed up, 84% of respondents employ multiple cloud environments with an average of 4.9 cloud environments in an enterprise. Those statistics alone speak to the need for efficient decentralized network management.

2.   Performance At the Edge

Cloud has facilitated the ability to quickly deploy new services and innovative applications well beyond the limited reach of an enterprise’s own data centers. Cloud also supports better performance compared to applications hosted solely in corporate data centers. Consider a few of the services and applications we use regularly. They all rely on decentralized network architectures that provision the needed network, processing and storage assets close to consumers to deliver the expected high-level performance and responsiveness.

  • Netflix stages content across content delivery networks to minimize buffering time and optimize streaming.
  • Zoom coordinates video conferencing, screen sharing and real-time collaboration among business and their clients.
  • PayPal, Venmo, and Zelle enable secure, nearly instantaneous payments between individuals or businesses
  • WordPress supports the creation, updating and management of countless websites worldwide.

Looking forward, the demand for decentralized network architectures that deliver optimum performance will increase. The rollout of 5G networks will generate even greater volumes of data as new applications or use cases tied to healthcare monitoring, personal safety in hazardous environments, media everywhere and critical control of remote IoT devices are brought to market.

Autonomous vehicles will require rapid analysis of massive amounts of real-time data and instantaneous communications with traffic management infrastructures. Network architectures need to be designed, deployed and optimized for these data demands. Older generation backhaul processing to a central site will be woefully inadequate.

Compared to on-premises data center models, adoption of a decentralized network architecture requires a rethinking of network strategy. Demand for performance at the edge will require an enterprise to continually evaluate its network architecture and performance with the goal of continued optimization. Fortunately, economic benefits accompany the decentralized network model.

3.   Economics of Network Architecture

Opportunities to reduce cost always drive the evaluation and adoption of new technologies.

Decentralized network architectures offer compelling cost advantages in comparison to an enterprise assuming full responsibility for network design, deployment and management. Both cloud providers and global interconnection platform providers allow enterprises to realize lower costs and improved performance via decentralized network architectures.

Cloud Offers Lower CapEx and OpEx

Hosting applications and storing data on cloud reduce an enterprise’s CapEx and OpEx associated with IT infrastructure. Cloud eliminates delays associated with selection, ordering and implementation of IT hardware. Resources can quickly be “spun up” when needed, scaled to accommodate growth and decommissioned when no longer needed. Cloud providers enjoy economies of scale unavailable to individual enterprises.

Reduce the Complexity of Interconnection

Global interconnection platform providers allow enterprises to easily establish connections among corporate data centers, cloud providers, network service providers, and an ecosystem of business partners faster and far more cost-effectively than independently building out those connections themselves. Interconnection providers reduce the complexity of establishing fast, secure connections.

The quantifiable benefits of decentralized network architectures enabled by interconnection providers are detailed in this Forrester Study: The Total Economic Impact of Equinix Interconnection Solutions. Multicloud connectivity, faster provisioning, fewer outages, and reduced latency equate to significant economic savings that confirm the value and benefits of well-designed decentralized network architectures.

Deploy Network Functions Where and When Needed

A global interconnection provider can also facilitate the deployment of network functions that allow an enterprise to optimize network performance. Network functions virtualization replaces purpose-built network hardware devices with software that runs on generic services and provides similar functionality. Unlike network hardware devices whose implementation is delayed by procurement cycles, network functions can be ordered online from the provider and deployed in minutes, in the cloud, on-premises, or in a colocation data center.

Providers offer a wide range of network functions. With network functions virtualization, an enterprise can deploy an SD-WAN to optimize data traffic between a branch office and the corporate data center, establish a firewall in a provider’s colocation center to prevent unauthorized access to corporate data resources, or install a router to accommodate increased traffic between an application running on one cloud environment and a database residing on another.

Deployment speed and flexibility in locating network services where and when needed lower the cost of network operations and allow an enterprise to support a decentralized network architecture.

For Better Application Performance, Think About the Network

Improving application performance often focuses on rewriting or fine-tuning application code or increasing the compute horsepower the application is running on. But it’s also critical the IT managers consider the underlying network and it’s topology.  Network performance (availability, latency, packet loss, and jitter) are all key in ensuring consistently high-performing applications.

The performance of an application running in the cloud could quickly be improved by deploying a virtual router to establish a private connection between the cloud and the database hosted in the corporate data center or deploying a virtual load balancer in the cloud to improve response time for high-demand applications. Demand for performance at the edge will require an enterprise to continually evaluate its network strategy with the goal of continued optimization.

Decentralized Network Architectures Meet The Needs

A wealth of cloud resources, the need to deliver performance at the edge and economic pressures are driving enterprises to adopt decentralized network architectures. Connectivity among corporate data centers, cloud providers, as well as digital ecosystem partners is critical in establishing and managing robust decentralized networks.

Enterprises can realize the greatest value from decentralized network architectures by working with global co-location and interconnection providers like Equinix that support digital-ready infrastructures. With the Interconnection Oriented Architecture (IOA) provided by Platform Equinix enterprises can efficiently and securely connect and manage widely distributed network resources and optimize network performance without the need for costly infrastructure investments.

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