Managing the Modern WAN

December 13, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

Today’s enterprise networks are utilizing more and more platforms and services, including cloud and multi-cloud computing. With all of these additions, there is an increasing amount of ground to cover and more challenges to face for today’s wide area networks (WANs). Here are a few tips to managing the modern WAN.

 

The cloud computing services that are becoming increasingly popular are not always easy to navigate. Each cloud operates in its own way and has its own intricacies, so educating yourself on the ins and outs is imperative to being able to successfully managing a modern WAN. When in doubt, jump in feet first. Sometimes the best way to learn how to manage a network in a multi-cloud environment is to just do it. Setting up a lab for research allows technicians to experiment and gather firsthand knowledge, and it’s usually not an expensive investment.

 

When it comes to actually implementing all of the new technology coming to market, integration can get tricky. Making sure that the legacy local area networks (LANs) and the new WAN platforms all work cohesively is a challenge. Fortunately, new products that enable software-defined WAN are also being developed and can be very useful in easing integration difficulties, especially for large networks. In a perfect world, all parts of a WAN would have end-to-end connectivity for seamless integration. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Thus, network administrators need to be able to adapt and be well-versed in alternative connection options such as load balancers, overlay networks and WAN accelerators. With a little savvy, you can achieve the performance goals of your WAN network while also staying within budget parameters.

 

Just like all other aspects of the world of technology, the parts that make up the modern day WAN are also changing. By staying current and educating yourself about new technology, and keeping a few tricks up your sleeve, you can integrate those changes and keep your network up to date.

 

How Network Security is Changing

November 29, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

With more users providing more information on more networks, and some of those networks being breached, it’s no wonder that network security is a hot topic for many people and businesses. In fact, network security is a top concern for many IT administrators. For, as network technology has become more advanced, so have the ways in which those networks can be hacked. Here, we’ll take a look some of the changes happening in network security to counteract those threats.

 

·        Network security will no longer be a small branch of IT, but rather a responsibility that encompasses the entire organization. The network is a part of every aspect of IT and thus it will need to be protected by all administrators. Plus, the network itself should be armed with tools to help avoid attacks by reinforcing network-based security such as firewalls and malware prevention.  

 

·        Today, so many things are being sent to the Cloud, and so will security. Many IT departments will take advantage of cloud-based services that will manage common security tasks as part of a contracted agreement. This allows a simple subscription plan to impart dynamic security measures that once took several hours for administrators to manage. Multi-Cloud security management platforms will also come into play to allow network security to be managed across public and private clouds via a single security control plane.

 

·        We’ve all seen the IT email alert go out warning of an email scam sent to employees to get them to click a link that then installs malware on the network. Because of these types of attacks, end-point security has become a priority. This has extended to include mobile device management for non-corporate owned devices. In the future, many of these end-point security measures will be simplified and condense the number of protection tools in place to provide better overall protection.

 

·        Penetration (pen) testing is a valuable tool used to detect security gaps that might not have been identified by IT staff. Outside firms are often hired to perform this testing for a true outside party perspective, but the service can be costly and needs to be done in a timely manner. With the development of new AI and automation technology, pen testing is becoming easier and less expensive, meaning that it can be done more often, which is especially beneficial to keep up with the increase of new viruses, malware and other cyber threats.

  

With these upgrades in network security, along with an increased focus on overarching enterprise wide security procedures, today’s networks will be able to keep up with tomorrow’s technology and do it securely.

 

802.11ad - What is WiGig?

November 15, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

As the evolution of wireless technology continues, so does the development of new wireless standards. Next on the list is 802.11ad – also known as WiGig. Most of the emerging wireless standards have been a steady progression, but this one has some fundamental changes planned. Here, we’ll explore what WiGig is all about.

 

As far as speed is considered, WiGig will support data rates up to 7 Gbps, though real data rates might be less than this maximum limit. WiGig operates on the 60 GHz frequency, as opposed to Wi-Fi which uses the 2.4 to 5 GHz bands. This should result in much less congestion compared to Wi-Fi’s congested frequencies and WiGig also shouldn’t have as many interference issues as there are on the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi band. Plus, it utilizes a narrow signal beam to reduce attenuation. But with a range of only around 30 feet and the 60 GHz signal unable to penetrate obstacles, WiGig is limited to one room with a clear line of sight from the transmitter to the receiver.

 

Instead of MIMO, WiGig uses multiple antennas for beamforming, which helps reduce attenuation. WiGig beamforming utilizes a phased antenna array that provides a signal power boost in whichever direction it is aimed. One of these access points can have as many as 64 antennas to generate up to 128 beams.

 

For multiple access, Service Period (SP), a new channel access mode, has been added to WiGig. This creates transmission schedules that are assigned to clients by access points. Time on the channel is organized into intervals called Beacon Intervals (BI). SP access is projected to be the preferred channel access in WiGig.

 

WiGig will also introduce a new mode of operation called PBSS. With PBSS, there is a central coordinator, like an access point (AP), but it allows clients to communicate while surpassing the AP. Clients can also talk to one another directly with this. PBSS is designed for applications that stream HD video to a display, because it doesn’t require the video to be sent through the AP, but it can still connect through the AP in other areas of the network.

 

In addition to 2.4 and 5 GHz, future Wi-Fi devices are expected to include 60 GHz radios and are expected to be capable of seamless transfers between the bands. Not only is WiGig bringing something new to today’s wireless networks, but it will add extra capability to future applications.

 

411 on 5G

November 1, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

For the past few years, the world of technology has been abuzz with talk about the 5th generation mobile wireless (5G), and with full-scale rollouts set to begin next year, all that buzz can be expected to become a swarm. For example, when wireless networks transitioned from 3G to 4G, there were incremental improvements in technology and performance, but the upgrade from 4G to 5G is expected to be a complete revolution of wireless and connectivity. To make sure you’re prepared to take part in the revolution, here’s the 411 to get you up to speed on 5G.

 

The goal of the 5G network is to create a platform that makes it possible to deliver global connection. This means being able to connect everyone and everything, everywhere around the globe. In addition to that, 5G systems are slated to deliver data rates that far surpass 4G in a wider coverage area, while being more power efficient and reliable, presenting lower latency, supporting faster moving equipment and the influx of communication stemming from the Internet of Things (IoT). Plus, 5G will not only support mobile wireless users, it will also include enhanced wireless connectivity technology for use in applications such as automotive, smart homes, augmented and virtual reality.

 

In order to cross into all of those markets, the specifications for 5G performance have been debated and defined. The finalized specifications were set to be released by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) in 2020. Though mobile operators and service providers are urging the standardization organizations to accelerate that timetable.

 

With so much uncertainty still looming over the finalization of the standard, early releases are not shaping up exactly as planned. In the meantime, the non-standalone 5G new radio (NSA 5G NR) is the interim 5G specification and will help ease the transition from 4G to 5G. The NSA 5G NR supports many aspects of 5G including the sub-6 GHz spectrum, frequency bands, carrier aggregation and MIMO. With the new 5G frequency bands, NSA 5G NR is capable of 5G-like performance while utilizing existing technologies and infrastructure. This interim specification will provide the groundwork for future trials and deployments and allow for the technology to be better understood for the full 5G rollout.

 

With the excitement of early 5G availability, there have also been new application opportunities emerging that include fixed wireless (FWS) to the home. This development would use 5G wireless technology to provide last mile data services including television, home internet and voice-over-IP (VoIP) phone calling. As the launch of early 5G gets closer, there are bound to be additional new and existing applications to arise that would benefit from 5G’s lower latency, increased data rates and enhanced reliability. Until then, we will have to wait with great anticipation for the arrival of 5G.

 

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How the IoT is Affecting Wi-Fi

October 18, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

In today’s society, Wi-Fi has become something that people now expect to be readily available and depend on to carry out everyday tasks. With the rollout of the Internet of Things (IoT), people will soon become accustomed to having all of their things connected as well. But with all of those connected devices, can Wi-Fi handle an even greater influx of user demand for high-speed connectivity? Here, we’ll take a look at how the IoT is affecting Wi-Fi.

 

When it comes to connectivity requirements, each IoT application can have a different set of range, data throughput and energy efficiency needs. Some IoT devices only need small, intermittent data transfers, such as utility meters. While some need a constant stream of data, such as live surveillance cameras. Also, range can differentiate from very short for wearables, to spanning miles for weather and agricultural sensor applications. But there are two things that are constants for all IoT applications: the need for remote power and constant connectivity.

 

To fulfill this need, Wi-Fi is the obvious choice because Wi-Fi coverage is so widespread, but standard Wi-Fi is not always the best choice for IoT applications. Thus, there are several standards that have emerged from the need for IoT connectivity. These include LoRaWAN, multiple short range communications standards and new Wi-Fi standards such as HaLow (802.11ah) and HEW (802.11ax).

 

The 802.11ah standard was introduced to address the range and power needs of the IoT. It utilizes the 900 MHz frequency band to provide extended range, covering a one kilometer radius, lower power requirements, wake/sleep periods and station grouping options.

 

The 802.11ax standard also includes the wake/sleep and station grouping features, and has a MU-MIMO feature that allows up to 18 users to simultaneously send data within a 40 MHz channel when paired with the smaller subcarrier spacing. Internet service providers and technology startups have also begun developing an application layer that includes mesh networks that use sets of routers to work together and extend wireless coverage, and provisioning tactics that define how wireless devices connect to networks.

 

There is some fear that the IoT could essentially break Wi-Fi, but there seems to be plenty of development activity focused around finding solutions to Wi-Fi congestion before it becomes a problem. With all of the IoT devices expected to be connecting in the near future, there will likely be a significant shift in Wi-Fi practices and standards, but as with everything in the world of technology, being able to pivot and reconfigure is the name of the game.

 

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