What Is Network Infrastructure? Components You’ll Need

What Is Network Infrastructure? Components You’ll Need

What is network infrastructure?

Network infrastructure refers to the hardware and software resources of an entire network that enable network connectivity, communication, operations, and management of an enterprise network. It provides the communication path and services between users, processes, applications, services and external networks or the internet. 

The network infrastructure of a company comprises a broad range of equipment, software, and services. This includes routers, switches, servers, wireless devices, data centers, software, firewalls, operating systems, and security applications.

Nile's next-gen wired and wireless network is a revolutionary approach to access networks that integrates a full technology stack and relevant lifecycle management services within a single solution. It is designed from the ground up as a service, guaranteeing performance in availability, coverage, and capacity, and does not require upfront capital expenditure.

Nile Access Service follows three key architecture principles: a standardized system design, a unified software release, and a single data store across the tech stack and lifecycle operations. This enables full-stack automation and continuous optimization, streamlining traditionally very expensive design, installation, deployment, monitoring, and support workflows.

Wired vs. wireless network infrastructure

Wired and wireless access networks for the enterprise mainly differ in the method of data transmission, speed, and security.

Method of data transmission

Wired networks employ Ethernet cables as the primary medium to link computers and various devices, ensuring seamless data transmission throughout the network. Relying on these physical connectors guarantees a dependable and consistent connection.

On the other hand, wireless networks typically use radio waves for data exchange. New wireless standards such as 5G and Wi-Fi 6 have dramatically increased the performance, capacity, and coverage of wireless networks, putting it on par in terms of end user and IoT device experience in terms of connectivity.

Speed

In the realm of data transmission rates, wired networks typically hold the edge. Their physical connections facilitate the rapid exchange of sizable data volumes. Such networks are especially beneficial for enterprises or venues that necessitate high-capacity links for tasks like large file transfers or streaming ultra-high-definition multimedia. 

While wireless networks have made leaps with innovations like Wi-Fi 6, enhancing transmission speeds, they still predominantly trail their wired counterparts in sheer speed capabilities.

Security

Wired networks inherently offer strong security because of their physical connections. To gain unauthorized access, one typically needs to make a direct connection to the network, making it more challenging for potential cyberattacks.

On the other hand, wireless networks are typically more vulnerable. If not properly secured with robust encryption and strong password protocols, they can be more susceptible to unauthorized access.

Mobility and setup

Setting up wired networks can be time-consuming because it involves carefully connecting each device with cables. Yet, once established, they tend to be stable and require little ongoing maintenance.

Wireless networks offer greater mobility. Without the constraints of cables, users can move around freely, and adding new devices to the network becomes much simpler, highlighting their flexibility.

Interference

Wired networks are less affected by interference from household appliances or other networks, leading to a more reliable network performance.

In contrast, wireless networks often face interference from devices like microwaves, cordless phones, and other nearby wireless connections, making it important to find ways to reduce such disruptions.

Both wired and wireless networks have their advantages and are optimal for different settings and requirements.

Wireless network infrastructure components

Wireless network infrastructures require several essential components for successful operation and management.

Wireless access points (WAPs)

Wireless access points, often abbreviated as WAPs, enable devices equipped with Wi-Fi to connect to a network. By broadcasting a wireless signal, they serve as intermediaries between Wi-Fi devices and the wired network, making wireless communication seamless.

Wireless routers

Wireless routers are versatile devices that merge the functionalities of both a router and a wireless access point. Typically found in smaller branch offices or homes, they facilitate both wired and wireless connections, creating an integrated network experience.

Wireless controllers

Utilized predominantly by large enterprises, wireless controllers can be essential for managing multiple access points and orchestrate centralized policy enforcement for end user and IoT traffic flows. They not only streamline the administration of a vast wireless infrastructure but also fortify centralized network security measures.

Edge platforms

Edge platforms act as routers that determine the most efficient route to ensure a superior application quality of experience. By operating at the periphery of the network, they process and relay data closer to the source, thereby reducing latency.

Wi-Fi devices

Devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and IoT gadgets that possess Wi-Fi capabilities are categorized as Wi-Fi devices. These devices have revolutionized how we access, consume, and share data, making connectivity ubiquitous and convenient.

Wireless antennas

Wireless antennas are designed to augment the signal range and potency of wireless devices. By enhancing the coverage area, they ensure more stable connections over greater distances, especially in challenging environments.

Wireless security protocols

Protocols like WEP, WPA, and WPA2 are dedicated to safeguarding wireless networks. As cyber threats evolve, these protocols continuously adapt to provide a robust defense against unauthorized access and breaches.

Wireless management software

Wireless management software is crucial for overseeing the performance and security of a wireless network. By offering real-time monitoring and analytic tools, this software aids administrators in maintaining optimal network health and performance.

It's important to note that different wireless networks may require different components depending on the specific requirements and the scale of the network. For instance, a small home or office network might only require a wireless access point, while a large corporate network might require multiple wireless controllers and access points.

Nile's solution includes a single set of edge infrastructure with a standardized system design, a single data store that leverages AI with context on policies, users, apps, and a single cloud software instance with constant tuning from Nile production engineering. The solution integrates 10+ products and services that have traditionally been consumed separately, with different support contracts, software/firmware releases, etc. 

Nile Access Service includes Wi-Fi site survey planning and design service, high density Wi-Fi 6 and 6E access point deployment, Wi-Fi sensor infrastructure for experience analytics, wired access and distribution/core switching fabric, DHCP servers for IP address management, NAC servers for service and device level policies, device profiling software for policy enforcement, guest DMZ install for visitor traffic termination, proactive technical support at an agreed upon SLA, and software maintenance service for all components.

What is network infrastructure management?

Network infrastructure management involves the administration and coordination of all the components within a network. It oversees the entire network's lifecycle, including planning, deployment, operational activities, maintenance, and eventual upgrades or decommissioning. It's a way to ensure the health, performance, and efficiency of the network infrastructure.

Network monitoring

Network monitoring is pivotal in maintaining the health and integrity of a network. By constantly monitoring network activity, administrators can quickly address any irregularities or potential failures, ensuring that every component functions as intended.

Network configuration

The network configuration process forms the backbone of how a network functions. It involves meticulously determining the structure of the network, connecting devices in a meaningful way, and ensuring both hardware and software components work cohesively for streamlined operations.

Performance management

Performance management emphasizes the network's capability to operate at its best. It's not just about speed; it's about ensuring consistent, reliable performance, minimizing possible disruptions, and providing users with a smooth networking experience.

Fault management

A network isn't infallible; when issues arise, fault management comes into play. This aspect of network management focuses on swiftly pinpointing and rectifying problems, mitigating adverse effects on overall performance and user experience.

Security management

In today's digital age, security management is paramount. It revolves around fortifying the network against potential cyberattacks, instituting rigorous security measures, and continuously monitoring for vulnerabilities to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access.

Network provisioning

As networks evolve, so do user demands. Network provisioning involves strategically allocating network resources, ensuring users have access to the tools and bandwidth they need. Adjustments and upgrades are made based on shifting requirements, ensuring the network remains agile and responsive.

Network traffic analysis

A deep dive into network traffic can reveal invaluable insights. Network traffic analysis is about more than just volume; it's about understanding user behavior, recognizing potential bottlenecks, and making informed decisions to optimize bandwidth usage and overall network efficiency.

In essence, network infrastructure management is about maximizing network performance, ensuring network security, and enhancing the end-user experience while minimizing costs and downtime. Software tools often help IT administrators handle these tasks, from network monitoring software that monitors network health to automated systems that help manage network configuration and updates.

Nile's capabilities for network operations and management are designed to streamline and automate traditionally manual and burdensome tasks. Nile's solution integrates software, AI, and automation to drive workflows for network, security, and operations engineering. This alignment of requirements enables proactive problem resolution, reduces business risk, and accelerates time to service at scale.

For operations teams, Nile delivers a simplified installation experience and enables real-time service updates. For network security teams, it orchestrates policy-based segmentation and enables rapid incident response. For infrastructure teams, it proactively detects performance deviations and enacts tuning to maximize resilience.

Network infrastructure solutions

Network infrastructure solutions comprise a broad array of products, services, and technologies tailored for the creation, deployment, and management of a network system within an enterprise. Their primary goal is to offer a streamlined approach to establishing and overseeing a strong network infrastructure.

Network design and implementation

This involves crafting a network blueprint tailored to an enterprise's unique demands. It touches upon the design of the network layout, the choice of suitable hardware and software, and the actual roll-out of the network infrastructure.

Network management tools (NMS)

These are specialized tools geared towards the continuous monitoring and management of the health and performance of a network. By leveraging protocols like SNMP, they can provide insights into device status, performance metrics, and network traffic patterns.

Network security solutions

Dedicated tools and strategies for shielding the network infrastructure from potential cyber threats. This category covers firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and antivirus software, among others.

Network virtualization

This is about unifying hardware and software resources in a software-driven network environment. The goal is to boost efficiency, minimize reliance on physical hardware, and speed up the roll-out of network services.

Cloud-based network solutions

Leveraging the internet to offer network services, these solutions are hailed for their flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and adaptability to rapidly changing organizational needs.

Wireless networking solutions

A focus on developing and enhancing the wireless network components of an enterprise. This includes everything from access points and routers to the necessary software tools that power wireless connectivity.

Thanks to the horizontal integration of wired and wireless access network operations, Nile radically simplifies traditional NOC and SOC tasks. It simplifies network design with a single high-density and available architecture at each site. Nile's unified data and software architecture enables one-touch provisioning workflows across the entire tech stack. It completely eliminates local configuration options for network elements to prevent downtime due to misconfiguration.

Nile Access Service leverages physical sensors and software bots to enable deep analysis of the overall service health - from user experience to hardware infrastructure monitoring. This continuous testing delivers high-definition coverage and capacity, and enables instrumentation to remediate performance issues proactively. It isolates every user and device by default while enforcing zero trust policies to prevent threats from spreading, further improving service uptime.

How is network infrastructure changing?

Network infrastructure is continually evolving due to technological advancements and changing business needs. Here are key trends shaping the transformation of network infrastructure:

Cloud computing

The transition to cloud computing has reshaped network infrastructure. This shift means networks are evolving to better manage data traffic to and from cloud services.

Software-defined networking (SDN)

SDN allows network administrators to control services by abstracting the underlying functionalities. This approach results in more effective resource use, automated management, reduced operational costs, and better data traffic regulation.

Network functions virtualization (NFV)

NFV introduces the idea of replacing specific network devices, such as routers and firewalls, with virtualized versions operating on standard hardware. This means tasks traditionally performed by specialized equipment can now be executed by software running on general-purpose servers, offering more flexibility and scalability.

5G and IoT

The advent of 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) amplifies the need for faster data speeds, minimal latency, and more dependable connections. This means network infrastructure has to be prepared to manage the extensive data volume these innovations entail.

Edge computing

Edge computing emphasizes situating computation and storage nearer to data's origin, curbing latency and bandwidth usage. This approach changes network design as data isn't required to traverse extended routes to centralized data centers.

AI & ML

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are now foundational for automating network processes, enhancing performance, bolstering security, and forecasting possible issues or downtime. AI and ML allow networks to learn from past data, adapt in real-time, and predict future challenges, making the overall network smarter and more proactive.

Zero trust security

The classical view of network security focuses on fortifying the network's boundaries. But with the surge in remote operations and cloud integrations, the idea of a set boundary has become outdated. Zero Trust security presumes no entity, be it a user or device, is reliable, irrespective of its location relative to the network, necessitating validation for every connection attempt. This perspective has led to new directions in network infrastructure and layout.

Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6, the newest Wi-Fi protocol, delivers greater speeds, augmented capacity, and reduced latency. Many enterprises are updating their networks to harness these improvements.

AI and cloud software are integral to Nile's solution, contributing to enhanced network operations, security, and infrastructure. Nile leverages AI to automate workflows, streamline the installation process, and monitor service quality, providing users with real-time updates on their network performance. In terms of network security, AI is used to orchestrate policy intent across the Wi-Fi and wired stack, eliminating configuration errors and enhancing security. AI also provides visibility across the stack for incident response, enabling faster and more efficient responses to security incidents.

Nile Access Service follows three key architecture principles that leverage cloud software: utilizing a single set of hardware elements at each customer deployment with a standardized best practices design, relying on a single cloud software release for all components in the solution, and a single data store across the tech and services stack to automate traditionally manual operational workflows. This approach enables full-stack automation and continuous optimization, streamlining traditionally very expensive design, installation, deployment, monitoring, and support workflows. 

Network infrastructure challenges

Managing network infrastructure comes with several hurdles. Whether you’re a college campus administrator or small business owner, below are a few challenges you’ll likely face.

Scalability

As a business grows, its network infrastructure needs to scale up as well. This can be challenging, especially for organizations still relying on legacy systems or that failed to plan for growth during their network design phase.

Cybersecurity threats

The increasing sophistication of cyber threats is a significant issue for network administrators. Safeguarding network infrastructure requires constant monitoring, up-to-date security measures, and rapid response time to any emerging threats.

Integration issues

With the vast array of software and hardware solutions available, it can be challenging to ensure all components of the network infrastructure integrate seamlessly. This includes integrating cloud services and on-premises networks.

Network congestion

As the number of connected devices and the amount of data being transferred over networks increase, there is the potential for network congestion, which can result in reduced performance and downtime.

Maintaining and updating legacy systems

Outdated hardware and software can threaten the network's security and reliability. However, updating these systems can be costly and time-consuming.

Cost management

From purchasing and maintaining hardware to software licensing and security investments, managing a network infrastructure can be costly. Balancing these costs while maintaining a quality network can be challenging for any organization.

Lack of skilled IT staff

The rapid evolution of technology necessitates regular training and skill development, which can be difficult to manage in-house, particularly for small to medium-sized businesses.

Nile Access Service integrates many traditional point products and services for wired and wireless access networks to a single solution: access/distribution switching, Wi-Fi APs, Wi-Fi sensors, zero trust isolation of connected users and devices, dynamic segmentation, IoT profiling, performance analytics, orchestration, guest authentication, and DHCP services in the cloud, among others.

For connectivity, it shares the responsibility of wired and Wi-Fi network uptime with customers and proactively resolves deviations in service quality through software and a reliability/production engineering team that monitors the network 24/7.

In terms of security, Nile Access Service extends zero trust security principles to the enterprise campus and branch to reduce the attack surface across the LAN. It orchestrates user and device level segmentation after mandating secure network access, eliminating the need for static ACLs across wired and Wi-Fi connectivity. 

For operations, Nile Access Service eliminates the need for scripting to tie different components together and the need to monitor a constant stream of alerts/notifications. It takes away the lifecycle management burden by orchestrating day -1/0/1/N workflows with AI and automation.

Network infrastructure made easy

Overwhelmed by the complexities of managing your network infrastructure? It might be time for a change. With Nile Access Service, you can rest assured knowing that your network performance outcomes like availability and capacity are guaranteed. 

This includes built-in zero-trust security measures that extend today’s best practices for data and network security to campus and branch environments, and usage-based billing for scalable, flexible consumption. The service dramatically simplifies network management and operations by offloading key lifecycle management tasks, helping you to focus on what you do best.

Experience zero-trust security, guaranteed network performance, and a tailor-made solution that scales with your organization.

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