I sat down to talk with Tyler West, Senior Infrastructure Consultant at Conversant Group, to discuss current updates in technology that have come into play in the last couple years.  During this conversation, I grew in understanding of the process of wide and local area networking. West has many years of experience in the technical world and was able to neatly layout the history regarding the current trend of automation.

West explained that, “Automation in the data center has been around for some time and continues to develop quite rapidly. It started with virtualization technology.”

Wide Area Network (WAN) Innovation

West says that “WAN evolution has been happening for some time, but recently it has been maturing and really taking root.”  The creation of Optimized Edge Routing was the first step to this process. This is a feature that would manipulate the routing tables based on specific criteria. The invention allowed for different paths to be chosen under different conditions. It also allowed for those paths to be used at the same time to get to the same destination.  Although this seems so simple today, at the time, it was revolutionary.

As market competition pressed onward, Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SDWAN) became the next big thing.  The automation in SDWAN takes root in the fact that the system will make decisions based on certain factors (bandwidth, performance, reliability) that you put into your policies. The beauty is that you can adjust everything dynamically to respond to any outages or performance issues. This technology is still developing and changing, however, SDWAN has changed the way we talk between sites within an organization.

Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) Innovation 

West categorizes the changes that he has seen over his career as 3 main evolutions:

  1. The controller

West dates the introduction of wireless controllers to about 15 years ago.  The controller was a solution to the lengthy, time-consuming process of physically having to configure every wireless access point (AP) individually. He considers this the first form of automation in the wireless network. If a controller is configured properly, the access points can download their software and configurations and adjust the number of parameters automatically.  This really improved the speed of deployment and made management and troubleshooting easier.

  1. Local access point management

A couple of years after the controller came out, various vendors searched for a new way that didn’t require having to configure each access point individually.  They focused on developing smarter AP’s. Prior to this there simply was not enough compute power in a single AP to manage the whole wireless network.  With more intelligent AP’s, one could consolidate management of all APs in a network to one and not need a controller. Whether it was a master AP or the ability for each AP to become the master, this created a means to have a central point of management without the cost or complexity of a controller.

  1. Cloud-based technology

Around the same time as this local point of management idea came into play, cloud–based technology became available. Here, access points in a site create a connection through the internet back to a management system in the cloud. You can access this system, often called a dashboard, from anywhere in the world.  The cloud management design is generally simpler and easier to configure and maintain. The versatility and simplicity of this technology is a huge selling point.

Today, all three of these forms of wireless technology are still around. The interesting thing is that because each have different benefits and drawbacks that are unique, the solutions do not compete with each other. The business model and traffic patterns of an organization often determine which type will be best for their wireless solution.

“Necessity is the mother of invention”. Automation is a product of this truth.  Conversant Group has 175+ years of experience and knowledge that can help your business. If your business wants to grow in knowledge of the technology type that is right for you, Conversant Group can help. Don’t hesitate to unlock your full potential for efficiently and cost-effectively obtaining the correct technologies.