Reinventing the LAN for the future

The LAN is hugely relevant again. After working from home since the pandemic, millions are returning to the office and looking to plug into LANs that haven’t been upgraded for a long time.

Multinational organizations are asking themselves how to connect their users from within traditional office environments and from outside to applications and resources that, thanks to a pandemic-accelerated digital transformation, predominantly sit in the cloud – providing a network that is always on and secure.

With global sites and complex infrastructures, LANs must be upgraded for several reasons – management to provide global governance and security policies, clear visibility on who and what is connected to the network, and the assurance that every office can provide users with the same quality experience.

An outdated LAN risks data loss, security breaches, and expensive downtime.

Legacy office networks can’t handle modern hybrid working

Hybrid or full-time office workers no longer accept poor Wi-Fi performance in an era where video-first communications have become the norm. It is paramount that wireless networks can support the growth in video meetings and streaming traffic as users return to their desks.

As enterprises re-think the workplace, the LAN must be reimagined to provide agility, flexibility, reduced risk and enhanced user experience. Every organization, however, is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all.

IDC forecasts by 2025, 50% of digital organizations will augment "cloud first" with a "wireless first" multi-access network fabric using various technologies for mission-critical and business continuity cases.

Networking infrastructure and services are now pivotal to business success

Cloud services and hybrid working have changed how networks and security are managed. Network infrastructure and services are critical for today’s business – connecting everything from offices and remote users to enterprise applications, services, AI and cloud estates.

System convergence, the massive growth in connected devices and the adoption of smart buildings have reinvigorated the LAN – demanding new LAN approaches and infrastructures.

According to Gartner, organizations are scaling their enterprise network projects around the expectation that nearly 67% of their workforce will work remotely part time. Wired LAN is still essential for high-bandwidth, real-time applications such as UHD videoconferencing, offering consistent speed, reliability and security for many devices.

Wired LAN, however, doesn’t come without its challenges. Notably, cabling to every connected-device location is complex and expensive as organizations look to reshape office space. Also, device connections are limited to available ports on a network switch. This is where Wi-Fi can help.

Is your wireless performance dipping?

With wireless standards changing on average every three to five years, you need to monitor network performance. If your network is holding your operations and user productivity back, it's time to upgrade.

Enterprises struggle with capacity and bandwidth demands as more mobile and IoT devices come online. Wi-Fi 6 improves efficiencies in how access points deal with devices simultaneously. It is no longer simply about speed; it is about capacity. Wi-Fi 6 adds more lanes to the superhighway.

The LAN must provide more

The LAN has developed from connecting network devices, including interrelated network management, analytics and security applications. At the same time, IT teams are being asked to do more with less. AI and automation are essential moving forward, protecting networks from lags, congestion and downtime.

Supporting a LAN today requires full-time visibility and automation. New access points, switches and gateways offer detailed telemetry, providing more profound analysis than possible. This is enabled by observability and AIOps, utilizing machine learning (ML) to identify issues on the network proactively, recommend corrective actions and provide the business with service assurance. This allows IT teams to find and correct Wi-Fi coverage gaps. Or optimize energy consumption to meet environmental targets.

It also requires an understanding of AI and ML, which are further revolutionizing the cloud-managed LAN. AI and ML algorithms can dive deeply into networks, analyze big data, map patterns and predict network issues, providing scalability, flexibility and enhanced performance.

By 2027, 90% of enterprises will use some AI functions to automate Day 2 network operations around maintaining and optimizing the system, compared with fewer than 10% in 2023, according to Gartner.

Planning a LAN upgrade

Planning a LAN upgrade requires careful consideration regarding budget, future-proofing and business implications. There are other challenges to consider: the logistics of global deployment, skills drought and the microchip shortage, which Gartner maintains is still causing network hardware delivery shortages.

Organizations have several options to address the latter, including optimizing existing assets and re-platforming in the cloud. However, having a solid, trusted relationship with the network vendor is still essential to take the best course of action and ensure replacement if a device fails.

Having a trusted partner is critical. They should be able to plan the upgrade, project manage, and install globally, ensuring the network meets business objectives, while at the same time, mitigating risk by forecasting procurement requirements and minimizing any downtime.

Orange Business and HPE Aruba Networking have the expertise and a global footprint to upgrade your LAN infrastructure to support your business roadmap. HPE Aruba Networking is a leader in wireless and wired LAN, delivering best-of-breed solutions. As an integration partner, Orange Business can optimize your existing LAN to ensure it is future-ready, dealing with the complex logistics and regulatory issues that come with a worldwide deployment.

The fixed and wireless LAN will co-exist

With more devices than people connected to the network and mobile connections outnumbering fixed connections, choosing either wireless or wired will not be the case. Both will bring their benefits to the office environment to ensure users stay connected and secure.

One thing is for sure, this is not a lift and shift operation. To upgrade LANs to address the challenges of today’s hybrid working environment, multinationals will need a trusted partner to advance their networks and brick-and-mortar environments at a speed that suits them. This encompasses replicating the agreed upgrade model across their entire global IT estates.

For further details on fixed and wireless LAN technology and the integration capabilities offered by Orange Business with its partner HPE Aruba Networking, click here: HPE | Orange Business.

Rich Smith
Rich Smith

With over 25 years of telecommunications experience, Rich is currently Network Practice Director with Orange Business in the Americas. He supports both wide and local area networking conversations with large multinational customers and partners. Rich lives in New York with his wife and three girls, where he enjoys long hikes in the woods, bike riding and downhill skiing.