An enterprise network is the foundation of any contemporary midsize to large organization. This complex infrastructure is difficult and expensive to build, maintain, manage, and secure—and is vital to smooth-running business operations. Therefore, it is crucial to know what an enterprise network is, what it consists of, and what it will look like in the future.
An enterprise network is an enterprise’s communications backbone that helps connect computers and related devices across departments and workgroup networks, facilitating insight and data accessibility. An enterprise network reduces communication protocols, facilitating system and device interoperability, as well as improved internal and external enterprise data management.¹
What does an enterprise network consist of?
An enterprise network consists of:
An endpoint is a remote computing device that can communicate with the network it is connected to. Examples of endpoints are as follows:
- Desktop computers
- Internet of things (IoT) devices
2) Network Devices
A network device (also called network hardware) is a physical apparatus required to obtain interaction/communication between hardware on a computer network. Here is a list of common network devices that will be found in any enterprise network:
- Access Point
3) Communication protocols
Communication protocols are a set of digital message formats and rules needed to exchange messages in or between computing systems. Some of the most popular communication protocols are:
- File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
- Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)
- User Datagram Protocol (DP)
- Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)
- Post Office Protocol (POP3)
- Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP)
- Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP)
4) Local Area Networks (LANs)
A LAN is an assemblage of connected devices in one physical location, such as a building, office, or home. A LAN can be large or small but must be contained in one finite area.
5) Wide Area Networks (WANs)
In its most simple form, a WAN is a collection of LANs that communicate with each other—in other words; it is a network of networks. Most enterprise networks have WANs that stretch over wide geographical distances, even to other continents. The internet is the largest WAN in the world.
In addition to those listed above, an enterprise network can incorporate numerous other components that enable communication or information exchange among an organization’s users, branches, or partners. A single organization’s enterprise network can easily have hundreds or thousands (or more) of endpoints running different operating systems and applications.
6) Cloud Networking
Most enterprise networks receive services via both on-site servers and off-site cloud networks. Techopedia describes cloud networking as follows:
It [cloud networking] entails shifting of some or all network operations onto a cloud-based network. The network resources are hosted on a public, private, or hybrid cloud platform. Network resources can be virtual routers, bandwidth, virtual firewall, any network management software, and more.²
The Benefits of an Enterprise Network
The benefits of an enterprise network are numerous and cannot be overemphasized. An enterprise network:
- Scans incoming data to detect viruses and malware, thus increasing security.
- Provides a high level of control over corporate resources (i.e., reduced maintenance and operational costs).
- Facilitates and speeds up routine operation, therefore increasing productivity.
- Provides virtualization that helps handle massive data sets.
- Allows multiple people to collaborate on a project remotely and simultaneously.
- Offers improved Quality of Service (QoS) by providing enhanced voice quality, call routing, and network management.
- Can quickly adapt to changing needs such as organizational growth, scaling, and the launch of new services.
- Provides seamless connectivity between users and the cloud.
Enterprise Network Trends
Enterprise networks are evolving steadily in 2021. According to Steve Glasgow, a Director at the global IT service management company, Wavestone:
In the area of networks and telecoms. There are some significant emerging solutions to address evolving business challenges. Many of these are interrelated, and organizations should build a multi-year strategy and supporting roadmap to assess and exploit these capabilities.³
Let’s take a look at enterprise network trends and innovations:
Leading research and advisory company, Gartner, defines SASE (pronounced “sassy”) as follows:
Secure access service edge (SASE) is a security framework prescribing the conversions of security and network connectivity technologies into a single cloud-delivered platform to enable secure and fast cloud transformation. SASE’s convergence of networking and network security meets the challenges of digital business transformation, edge computing, and workforce mobility.⁴
In short, SASE architecture provides an additional layer of security for edge network technologies.
Complex networks need automation, and medium to large enterprises are increasingly using these technologies. Automation covers many aspects such as:
- Application programming interfaces (APIs)
- Event correlation
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
Enterprises are migrating to software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN). SD-WAN is a virtual WAN infrastructure that allows organizations to use any combination of transport services such as multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), long-term evolution (LTE), and broadband internet to securely and intelligently direct data traffic across the WAN.
Organizations are beginning to take advantage of the new 5G technology. 5G connectivity offers remarkably improved user experiences and high data transmission rates.
WiFi 6 and 6e
WiFi 6 and 6e standards are approximately 30 percent faster than WiFi 5. Speed is king, and this technology is hot. A WiFi industry study reports that by 2025, WiFi 6 alone will generate more than USD 180 million of US revenue.⁵
Managed Network Services
Many organizations are beginning to use new network service delivery models, like Networking as a Service (NaaS), which enable them to employ advanced enterprise networking strategies via a subscription rather than buying them outright.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
AI and ML are cutting-edge technologies increasingly being used to enhance the visibility and control of an enterprise network.
Zero Trust Network Access
New technologies such as Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) and Software-Defined Perimeter (SDP) are gaining ground. This technology greatly enhances network security.
Gartner defines ZTNA as follows:
ZTNA is a product or service that creates an identity-and context-based, logical access boundary around an application or set of applications. The applications are hidden from discovery, and access is restricted via a trust broker to a set of named entities.⁶
To Sum Up
Every enterprise needs to fashion a unique networking solution that will handle its particular workflow, processes, customer demands, logistics, etc. Enterprise networks will increase efficiency, control resources, expand productivity, and lower costs. The right kind of networking is essential to an organization’s growth and success.
1 Techopedia: Enterprise Network
2 Techopedia: What is Cloud Networking?
3 Wavestone: 8 Key Trends for Enterprise Networks in 2021
4 McAfee: What is Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)?
5 WiFiForward: Assessing the Economic Value of Unlicensed Use in the 5.9 GHz and 6 GHz Bands
6 Gartner: Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)