Rolling out a mobile device operating system update like iOS 8, ramping up a major mobile first or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative, or implementing a mobile device management (MDM)/enterprise mobility management (EMM) platform can potentially impacts your enterprise network. Unfortunately, the networking team is sometimes left out of such conversations.

I recently got a quick education about enterprise mobility and the network from Sonal Puri, vice president of sales, marketing and alliances of Aryaka, a provider of cloud-based wide area network (WAN) and content delivery networks and Mike Martin, CTO of nfrastructure, a networking infrastructure services firm.

Enterprise mobility, networking, and the cloud

“What happened in the last two to three years is the adoption of [mobile] devices within the enterprise network has increased,” according to Puri. “The adoption of cloud services for the enterprise network in the last 6 months has also increased.”

Puri told me that Aryaka is seeing more of its customers move critical business applications to cloud providers so their employees can access the applications from anywhere on their own devices.

“We are seeing that there’s a trend to get a 100MBps link,” Puri adds. “The cost is going down and the need is going up across the board.”

“IDC suggests that we are currently in the midst of a transformation to the “third platform” of enterprise IT,” Martin offers. “Whereas the first platform centered on mainframe technologies, and the second platform was centered on PCs and Client/Server applications, the third platform is built on mobile, social, cloud services and big data technologies. As this trend continues to mature, the number of mobile devices accessing enterprise networks will accelerate dramatically.”

Puri points to a changing workforce that combines personal life and work life so seamlessly making it difficult to say you can’t access social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn on your mobile device during work hours going out over corporate Wi-Fi.

She does advise having enough capacity through shaping your network traffic(a service that Aryaka provides their customers). Business applications would get the highest priority. For example, voice and video would get the highest level of priority as each is real-time and gets affected by network traffic.

Other applications like ERP systems and CRM systems that are business critical get high priority and Internet applications like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook are reduced to best effort

Puri doesn’t believe you can manage mobile device usage across an enterprise network.

“You can have policies but enforcing those policies can be challenging given the age and behavior of our workforce across the board,” Puri states. “What I would also say if you can set in some IT level mechanisms to manage this new trend and get comfortable with it and put policies around it I think we’d all be in a much better place.”

When asked about Wi-Fi calling, a new iOS 8 feature, Puri sees it potentially clogging up the network. She offers, “The reality is you can’t control it but you have to manage it and accept it as a business application.”

The fundamental problem is the line between personal and business is getting blurry according to Puri. She further sees that the workforce is different these says and thus using devices in different ways. She also advises that Suggest that during work times on enterprise networks that people use it for work.’

Mobility requirements and the enterprise network

Martin cites three key requirements / considerations for network when seeing a higher concentration of mobile devices:

  • High quality wireless experience. With continued proliferation of BYOD and mobile devices, Wi-Fi is quickly becoming the primary means of network access. It is therefore critical to build a robust Wi-Fi infrastructure that can provide wired-like performance, handle a high density of wireless clients, and can be centrally managed and easily upgraded to the most current Wi-Fi technologies.
  • Integrated security. More than just encryption of wireless traffic, but also access controls, ability to provide guest services, on boarding of devices, and user tracking.
  • Mobile device management. MDM dramatically improves an organizations ability to centrally control, govern and manage mobile device access to the network.

Preparing your enterprise network for MDM/EMM

“As previously mentioned, having a robust, high-quality wireless network is an important critical success factor as mobile device concentration continues to grow,” Martin states.

“In addition to normal operational traffic, MDM/EMM tools can introduce additional workload profiles that the network must support,” Martin offers.

“For instance, if an MDM/EMM tool is leveraged for endpoint data protection, that backup workload can introduce a significant burden on the network, with high volume, continuous transfer of data across the network to either local or cloud targets for endpoint backups,” Martin adds. “These requirements must be factored into enterprise network design, perhaps deploying additional wireless access points and/or higher bandwidth uplinks to support the periodic spikes in traffic.”

CDNs, DNS, edge caches and enterprise mobility

Puri had some interesting things to say around the use of content delivery networks (CDNs). Her company’s product can act as a CDN for enterprise networks, and they have customers who cache files/downloads for their mobile device users at the network edge rather than having mobile users download those files from their point of origin. The implications of supporting a rollout of iOS 8 or other mobile OS update.

The key is reducing the amount of data traversing the network so there’s also domain name service (DNS) and edge cache management to explore depending on your current enterprise network infrastructure.

Final thoughts

After speaking to some EMM/MDM experts and now getting some insights from the networking world, it drives home the importance of having a cross-functional team supporting major enterprise mobility initiatives within mid and large enterprises.