Having an efficient and stable network infrastructure is increasingly important for businesses today, as employees embrace remote working, and customers expect to be able to interact online. Customer support has been shaken up by the increasing use of chatbots and self-help-directed support threads.
Other new ways of working such as Cloud Computing and the Internet of Things have also driven the need for always-on and always-available networks.
The development and enhancement of new network protocols and their associated architectures have improved network infrastructures by leaps and bounds over the last few years to help achieve that goal.
At the highest level, we have seen the development of Software Defined (“SDN”) and Intent-Based (“IBN”) networks. Both SDN and IBN split networks into physical and logical levels. They manage the physical level automatically, defining self-configuring, self-managing, and self-healing networks according to policies set out at the logical level. For example, if a device fails, both an SDN and IBN will automatically re-route traffic to avoid the network break.
With the improvements in network protocol architectures supporting SDN and IBN technologies, network staff no longer sit configuring devices or glued to screens watching traffic patterns, instead concentrating on the wider issues of network organisation, security, and user support and management. This has provided major improvements in the costs and efficiency of network management.
At the lower levels, the new and improved protocols have improved network speeds and responsiveness, while at the same time enhancing network security.
Here are five areas that have benefited from new and improved network protocol architectures.
Improved network performance
The evolution of network protocol architectures has led to the development of more efficient and faster protocols, resulting in better network performance. Newer protocols such as IPV6, MPLS, and OSPF have improved packet handling, routing, and congestion control, resulting in faster and more reliable data transfer.
The improvements in network performance have been used in SDN and IBN to implement better architectures, including improvements in security and recovery, defined by profiles based on the policies set out at a higher level.
Networks can now be self-configuring and self-healing.
Enhanced network security
Network security is of paramount importance. Over the last few years, there has been an increase in the ferocity and frequency of network and malware attacks on businesses. Ransomware can put a network out of action, possibly dealing a fatal blow to a business. As a result, network security has been hard-pressed to keep up.
However, the evolution of network protocols has also led to the development of more secure protocols such as SSL, TLS, and IPsec, which provide encryption and authentication services to protect sensitive data during transmission. Additionally, newer protocols have introduced advanced security features such as intrusion detection, firewall protection, and access control.
Network security software providers have been quick to take advantage of these new protocols to supply industrial-strength network security solutions.
Increased network scalability
The increases in online activity in most businesses have meant increased pressure on IT to scale up network architectures to maintain acceptable service levels. At the same time, there is an increased pressure on budgets for capital and operational spending.
The evolution of network protocols has allowed networks to become more scalable, with the ability to handle larger amounts of traffic and more and different devices. Protocols such as IPv6 have expanded the number of IP addresses available, allowing for more devices to be connected to the network without running out of addresses.
Scalability is particularly important when assessing the effects of the IoT on the network architecture.
The days when an organisation operated a single-vendor policy for network components are fading. The increasing variety of devices attached to the network catering to new application areas, and the rise of the Internet of Things mean that is unlikely that a single supplier can meet all requirements.
Budget pressures have also meant that IT departments must look at more cost-effective and cost-efficient equipment suppliers. This has brought about an increase in niche suppliers of solutions for specific areas such as VPN managers. This in turn has meant an increased need for automatic interoperability.
Therefore the evolution of network protocols has led to the development of more interoperable protocols, allowing devices and systems from different vendors to communicate with each other. Protocols such as SNMP, DNS, and DHCP have become widely accepted, enabling devices and systems to work seamlessly with each other.
Better support for new applications
Two of the major changes in recent times have been the move towards cloud computing, and the rise of the Internet of Things. Private, public and hybrid clouds are now commonplace in business networks, and many devices operated manually are now computerised.
This has meant that networks are now much more diverse and distributed than before, and need to be scalable, interoperable, and capable of accepting new device classes.
At the same time, network security has become more demanding, and new technologies need to fit into a more secure environment without creating new opportunities for network attacks and malware.
The evolution of network protocols has provided better support for newer applications such as cloud computing, virtualization, and mobile computing. Newer protocols such as VXLAN, GRE, and GTP have been developed to support these new applications, enabling more efficient and secure data transfer in these environments.