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What is the network edge?

The network edge consists of systems that are not part of the data center. Think of a typical enterprise network: the data center is at the core, and then there are locations distributed across a market, area, or region, or even across the globe. These distributed locations are considered to be at the network edge, because they require infrastructure that connects them back to the data center and to the rest of the enterprise.

The network edge can cover everything from branch office locations, retail shops, and university campuses, to smart city infrastructures, factories, and faraway mining locations.

The network edge includes critical remote infrastructure

At the business-need level, the network edge must provide its customers with the appropriate experience. This can mean authenticating account info for ATM users, processing in-store transactions for shoppers, or providing real-time sensor readings to drilling crews. All of these require critical remote infrastructure to be in place.

Critical remote infrastructure includes the systems that can communicate with the data center, cloud, and/or other edge locations in order to provide the intended user experience.

Why is network edge infrastructure so important?

The network edge is part of the backbone of distributed enterprise. It’s what allows operations to happen quickly and efficiently outside of the data center. Having the right edge infrastructure in place means the difference between smooth operations that keep customers happy, and constant slowdowns and outages that hamper business growth or even lead to severe losses.

As an example, consider what can happen at a popular retailer’s newly-opened branch location. By using solutions that aren’t optimized for the edge, such as MPLS lines and many disparate devices, the customer experience can be very unresponsive. When it takes 20 minutes or more to check product availability, or several minutes just to process a purchase, the simple logistics slow down business and limit the amount of revenue that the day can bring. Even if shoppers don’t abandon their carts, slow infrastructure means slow business.

But with the right edge infrastructure in place, business changes dramatically. Processing tasks can be performed quickly at the edge instead of having to rely on slow MPLS lines to communicate back to HQ. Customers can get product updates in real time, and transactions can be completed in seconds. Optimized infrastructure is the key to meeting demand at the network edge.

Why you need the best edge network management tools

Just as critical as edge network infrastructure are the tools you use to manage it.

Having distributed locations poses challenges because of physical and geographic limitations. These challenges are only compounded as you deploy your edge farther away and in more remote locations. And with typical management solutions, you’re forced to spend monumental sums of time and money performing on-site support — for even the smallest troubleshooting tasks.

Consider this real-world example: an offshore drilling company requires strong connectivity, which means each rig needs a networking stack. Managing these stacks used to require on-site support, which came with extreme costs and risks. On-call IT teams had to be dispatched via helicopter, sometimes traveling more than 100 miles out to sea to simply cycle device power or install a firmware upgrade.

Luckily, the company deployed out-of-band management, which allowed them to gain remote control of their networking infrastructure. They no longer needed to spend thousands on support or put employees at risk. Their out-of-band solution let them perform even complex troubleshooting and recovery tasks from thousands of miles away.

Want to learn more about this customer and how you can save at the edge?

Watch our free webinar, Managing the Network Edge.