I enjoy word puzzles. One of my favorites is the word ladder, where the objective is to transform a given starting word (i.e., the “bottom rung”) into a specified destination word (i.e., the “top rung”) through a series of incremental steps, each of which consists of a new word that differs from the prior one by only a single letter. I especially appreciate the clever word ladders where the destination word’s meaning is the opposite of the starting word, for instance: FOOL -> SAGE. Here’s how it works: FOOL -> POOL -> POLL -> POLE -> PALE -> SALE -> SAGE. Who says the English language can’t be fun?
The evolution of the enterprise WAN is like a word ladder.
The evolution of the enterprise WAN is like a word ladder. Enterprise WANs over the years have transformed slowly and incrementally, step by step, and eventually have arrived at a state profoundly different from where they began. Decades ago, enterprise users worked in branch offices and accessed in-house applications and data residing in data centers using private WANs. Let’s call this our starting point, the bottom rung of the ladder.
As the Internet emerged and matured, the usefulness of tools like Email and the Web prompted enterprises to add centralized Internet access from their data centers, where it could be controlled and secured using perimeter firewalls. This was a small incremental change, but it represented an important first step up the ladder.
As the Internet grew, software companies that had traditionally licensed their applications for deployment within enterprise data centers saw the potential of hosting their applications for Internet-based delivery to their end-users, and the era of SaaS was born. Enterprises began to adopt SaaS-based alternatives to some in-house applications, thereby taking another important step up the ladder.
Similarly, compute, storage, and network virtualization technologies, originally developed for the data center, soon enabled cloud-delivered alternatives to brick-and-mortar data center infrastructure, ushering in the era of hyperscale IaaS and PaaS. This enabled many more workloads, including legacy apps with no SaaS alternative in the market, to be migrated out to the cloud, and the pendulum swung even further away from private WANs and data centers towards the public Internet. And so another key step was taken.
More recently, SD-WAN emerged as a viable virtual alternative to physical MPLS-based private WANs, employing application-layer intelligence and sophisticated mitigation capabilities to overcome the limitations of prior generation Internet VPNs. This has enabled enterprises to replace costly MPLS WANs with less expensive and more ubiquitous Internet underlays and virtual private SD-WANs securely riding over top of them. This “rung” is eliminating the last vestiges of the physical private WAN.
Finally, today’s enterprise employees often work from anywhere, not just branch office locations. And since the COVID pandemic, for many businesses, there may be more steady-state workers outside of branch offices than within them. This final step up the ladder completes the transformation, bringing us to our present situation.
The realization that today’s enterprise WANs are fundamentally different from their origins is the foundation of the Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) concept. When users from anywhere are using public networks to access applications and data that reside predominately outside of the walls of the enterprise, traditional private networking, and perimeter-based security are no longer appropriate – network access and security enforcement must be available in proximity to users wherever they are, and consistent security policies must be applied across all access methods and locations. This is the SASE approach.
GTT’s SASE architecture leverages the reach of our Tier 1 global IP backbone and combines it with technology from best-in-breed security partners like Palo Alto Networks. We are helping our customers evolve their networks and security approaches to meet today’s challenges, regardless of where they are on the “security ladder.”
I’ll leave you with a final word ladder: MPLS -> MILS -> MISS -> MASS -> BASS -> BASE -> SASE. As someone who enjoys word puzzles, I couldn’t resist.
GTT connects people across organizations, around the world, and to every application in the cloud. Our clients benefit from an outstanding service experience built on our core values of simplicity, speed, and agility. GTT owns and operates a global Tier 1 internet network and provides a comprehensive suite of cloud networking services. We also offer a complementary portfolio of managed services, including managed SD-WAN from leading technology vendors.