Looking to the Next Generation of Enterprise WAN Solutions

With fast-changing connectivity and security needs, enterprises are re-evaluating their WANs and seeking Next-Generation WANs that align with the latest set of enterprise challenges.

Network Computing

June 24, 2024

1 Min Read
SD-WAN illustration

Every year, we hear it from a new enterprise Wide Area Networking (WAN) vendor (or perhaps some other acronym): "The enterprise WAN is changing! This time is different!"

Although some of what this week's WAN vendor du jour is parroting may be true, the enterprise WAN has been changing for decades, driven by waves of technology change alongside changing enterprise needs.

In this post, we'll dig into the emergence of enterprise WANs, how they've changed over time, and what the newest generation of WAN technology is emphasizing.

Emergence of the enterprise WAN and MPLS technology

Enterprise WANs emerged in the '70s and '80s, allowing enterprises to build their own private, secure data networks spanning large geographic areas, enabled by the digitalization of telecom networks and growth in the utilization of computer systems.

Early WANs consisted of leased telecom lines using frame relay for data transmission and private branch exchange (PBX) systems for voice communications over the same leased line infrastructure. These original enterprise WANs were extremely inflexible and required the enterprise to design, source, and operate each component of the WAN, but they did work!

In the 1990s, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) technology emerged, offering greater flexibility and scalability than frame relay. MPLS supported higher bandwidth ethernet connections, offered improved quality of service (QoS), became cheaper over time, and supported converged voice/video/data services on the same line.

Related:Understanding the Role of Network Taps in Data Center Observability

Further, MPLS was offered by telecom carriers as a managed carrier offering, making it easier to roll out and manage than old-school WAN tech, which required fulsome enterprise management. It's no surprise that MPLS became the dominant enterprise WAN technology in the 2000s…

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Network Computing

Network Computing, a sister site to Data Center Knowledge, provides community members with in-depth analysis on new and emerging infrastructure technologies, real-world advice on implementation and operations, and practical strategies for improving their skills and advancing their careers. Its community is a trusted resource for IT architects and engineers who must understand business requirements as well as build and manage the infrastructures to meet those needs.

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