The numerous struggles businesses must go through to address the network needs of a branch have been well documented on this site and many others. The importance of the branch can’t be understated either. The branch is where the majority of workers reside today—81 percent of employees, according to a recent ZK Research survey. For many businesses, such as retailers and banks, the branch is the business, so curing branch woes needs to be a top priority for business and IT leaders.
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While there are a number of branch networking problems, they can be bucketed into two larger categories: inside the branch and connecting the branch. Inside the branch is typically a big mess of disparate infrastructure—routers, firewalls, VPN concentrators, switches, wireless LAN and the list goes on. Each of those typically requires its own manual configuration, patches and upgrades, creating a complicated mess that often requires a site visit that adds to the lag time in branch management. In a digital world, speed is everything and the current state inside the branch is the antithesis of speed.
The other challenge is connecting the branch. Legacy WANs are inefficient, inflexible and expensive. Everything is manual, and performance of mission-critical applications and cloud services over the WAN tends to be slow—hence the rise of software-defined WAN (SD-WAN).
The industry has been focused diligently on solving these problems, but many solutions providers address only one set of issues. Some vendors have great SD-WAN solutions but don’t help with branch infrastructure. Others are more focused inside the branch but leave the network to someone else.
Juniper Networks addresses both types of branch challenges
This week, Juniper Networks announced its cloud-enabled branch strategy, which addresses both sides of the branch coin. I’ve been critical of Juniper’s branch strategy for years, but it seems like its finally put all of its capabilities together and has created a strong solution for its customers.
Juniper’s Cloud-Enabled Branch is built on two platforms. The NFX Series is meant for larger branch locations and includes a router, network switch and server. NFX is a beefy product built on an Intel Multi-Core Xeon chip with up to 32 GB of RAM and 400 GB of SSD. The server portion can be used to deliver multiple virtual services with automated provisioning and third-party applications. Now all branch functions can be consolidated and run on this single platform. Sample applications include things like virtual SRX firewall, Ruckus wireless LAN controller and Silver Peak WAN optimization. The on-demand nature of the appliances eliminates truck rolls and individual appliances.
One the WAN side, the product also supports SD-WAN services where different cloud services or enterprise applications can be delivered over different WAN connections. For example, enterprise VPN and Skype for Business could be sent down an MPLS connection where YouTube traffic could be directed over an internet connection.
The SRX-Series has a smaller footprint. The device is geared towards smaller branches and is optimized for WAN connectivity and security. The NFX has a throughput of capacity of 20 Gbps, while the SRX is designed for environments in which 10 Gbps is sufficient.
Businesses need to focus on addressing the challenges in the branch sooner rather than later, but both sets of problems need to be dealt with. Juniper’s Cloud-Enabled Branch is ideally suited for highly distributed organizations where the branch is the business.