For the past two decades, campus network design has seen little innovation, as market leaders have promoted the status quo with no significant investments beyond incremental “speeds and feeds” enhancements. Years of incremental technology upgrades have turned traditional legacy campus networks, into a complex and fragmented patchwork of network devices.
Campus networking has reached a point where traditional network architectures are struggling to keep up with users’ relentless demands for seamless mobility across the campus and pervasive access to latest-generation applications. It is increasingly challenging for IT departments to maintain network Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and to enforce specific access policies across a broad range of wired and wireless users and devices. Legacy campus networks suffer from various issues as technology advances, including:
- Complex: Legacy campus networks are managed one switch at time. Network teams are required to connect to each individual network device to provision resources, apply configuration changes, and deploy network policies. The burden is on the network administrator to keep the network consistent and all network device configurations in sync.
- Inefficient: A typical legacy campus network includes multiple network layers that run inefficient legacy protocols such as Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), where only half of the links between layers are active, and the remaining links act as backups in case the primary link fails. Overcoming the limitations associated with STP
requires the use of Layer 3 protocols, which add to the management complexity of such solutions.
- Fragmented: Legacy networks include many different network devices running various network Operating System (OS) platforms and versions. Each network device offers different levels of Layer 2/Layer 3 network services, based on the capability of each device and the types of software licenses that are activated.
- Rigid: Traditional three-tier network designs with “big-box” chassis at the aggregation and core layers require a significant upfront investment. Also, they are frequently deployed with vacant slots to support additional capacity that might be required in the future. Modular chassis solutions also provide limited deployment flexibility and require a “fork-lift” upgrade to move up to the next capacity level.
Just like data center networks experienced a transformation a few years ago to support virtualization and virtual machine mobility, the time has come for campus networks to undergo a similar transformation to support seamless user mobility and pervasive access to applications anytime and anywhere.
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