We’re keeping an eye on local area network trends to bring you the most up to date information about your networks. Whether you’re familiar with your current set-up or you’re exploring new possibilities, we explore what the future of LAN looks like.
The humble LAN – the network that connects endpoints in offices and factories around the globe to network “services”. This network allows those endpoints to access data, run machinery and a whole host of other features. Users can extract and manipulate the data accessed to produce some outputs, service customers, and other work at the endpoint.
Over the last 30 years, the LAN has evolved from Token Ring to BNC/Coax LAN to the modern Gigabit plus ethernet that we know today. We also now have organisation-wide WiFi that works wherever you are so users are not tethered to desks, and you can get additional kit on the network without adding lots more cabling.
In that time, speeds have increased, and we can now access our network services wirelessly. We have added devices beyond simple laptops, desktops and mobiles to the LAN. So what can we expect from future local area network trends? And is this potentially the end of LAN?
Here is a thought: Those network services that you use your LAN to connect to – where are they?
- In your office or other workplaces
- In a co-location centre or other central data centre
- In the cloud – either public IaaS or PaaS, or more often, a SaaS product – such as Salesforce, Dynamics 365, or some other part of the Microsoft 365 stack.
Since the pandemic, how many of those network services have been accessed across a LAN? Any workers that have been on-site during that time have used the LAN. Consider if remote workers have accessed it, and any other working arrangements you have for staff. The same applies to long-term home workers who are using a VPN to a co-location centre or, more often now, just consuming a SaaS service.
80% Won’t Return to Old Normal
We recently hosted a webinar on the topic of modernising IT working practices with the Modern Workplace. We explored the flexibility and consistency it brings, its capability, and the potential productivity increases it can bring.
During the webinar, we conducted a survey, and one of the key stats that stood out was that 80% of those surveyed have no intention of fully returning all of their staff to offices and factories when the pandemic ends. Moreover, most of those surveyed didn’t want to go back to the office at all. So what can we glean from this one stat? If you rarely, if ever, go to the office, why do you need the LAN?
IOT AND INDUSTRIAL CONTROL
It seems like the LAN would be required for organisations with a factory or other large infrastructure that needs monitoring. However, that’s not necessarily the case, at least not in the way you would think. IoT or the Internet of Things is now a commonplace term that wraps up things like water pipe monitoring, feedback from Industrial control systems, or even the doorbell or heating system at your house. But these devices transmit their data and consume services from somewhere other than the LAN.
WHERE ARE MY SERVICES?
If you’re reading this from home, consider where the network service provides the hosting for this. When you send an email, it’s most likely provided by or passing through a cloud service that isn’t at your office either. When updating the CRM system, it is probably utilising a SaaS application. The example of the industrial pipe monitoring solution likely connects to the internet over 4G.
WHAT HAPPENED TO MY SECURITY PERIMETER?
We are talking more about a Zero trust approach and multiple security “bubbles” extending from corporate network services to endpoints. For organisations that still rely on more traditional on-premise centric management systems, this is a problem. Active Directory Group policies don’t work so well if the user has already logged into the endpoint before opening their VPN client to connect to the corporate network.
Access control on your LAN or RADIUS authentication on your corporate WiFi isn’t helping. This isn’t an effective means of security in our current world, or likely the one we can look forward to.
FUTURE LOCAL AREA NETWORK TRENDS
There is still a place for the LAN, but with the rise of cloud computing and the dispersed nature of many workforces, the LAN as we know it will often be the local ones over WiFi in peoples homes. Older organisations will not likely see network upgrades for some time to come, if ever. With 5G upon us and the promise of gigabit speeds for a fixed monthly fee, you may find office staff getting frustrated with the slow office internet connection. They may end up tethering to their mobiles anyway – making the LAN just a way to heat the room!
In factories and similar workplaces, the LAN still has its place but more so as devices that talk directly to data lakes at one of the big cloud vendors. While LAN isn’t essential for that, some companies will probably continue to utilise it for a while, but not forever.
LANs will become virtual configurations in someone’s public or private cloud in the form of SDN (software-defined networking) and the odd switch to run some WiFi. With internet connections now looking “small” for business at speeds of less than 10Gbps. With the availability of near gigabit fibre broadband in some areas, the LAN will be reserved for special situations rather than the mainstream.
So while we monitor local area network trends, it’s worth broadening your horizons and exploring alternative routes. Now is the time to focus on cloud productivity, cloud security, endpoint security, and the occasional firewall for those large centralised data centres.
HOW CAN OPTIMISING IT HELP?
We have been operating with a cloud-based, LANless environment for the past seven years. Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen a huge rise in customers moving to a fully flexible, seamless and consistent cloud-based approach. We have delivered multiple modernisation projects to enable seamless, flexible working from anywhere across many sectors. These include education, manufacturing, recruitment and business services. With almost unlimited scale and unparalleled flexibility, using the cloud as your first choice has changed from being a consideration to the first choice for many.
We stay up to date on local area network trends to make sure we can offer you the best advice and services. So whether you are still using a historical set-up or have had a recent upgrade, we can make sure you’re suitably optimised for your workplace.
If you would like an evaluation of your environment and IT requirements to see how you could modernise them to support a new way of working, get in touch today, and one of our Cloud Specialists will contact you to discuss the next steps.