Most enterprise networks consist of a LAN, WAN and internet edge -- and potentially a data center. These architecture segments include several options to interconnect various network components and transport data to all parts of an enterprise network.
Here's a look at some of the most common types of network connections used in internet edge, LAN and WAN segments.
Internet edge connections
The internet edge is the demarcation point that separates a private corporate network from the public internet. Connectivity within this portion of an enterprise network is often referred to as internet broadband.
Depending on physical location, available ISP options and business requirements, popular internet edge connectivity options include the following:
- twisted pair
Twisted-pair internet connections are often delivered as a standard Cat6 or higher eight-pin twisted-pair cable. Other options include DSL or Integrated Services Digital Network, which use traditional telephone cabling that converts into an RJ-45 port via a DSL or ISDN modem. Throughput rates for twisted-pair connections from ISPs often cap at 1 Gbps.
Cable companies often deliver internet broadband access over coax cables. Like DSL and ISDN, a cable modem converts the coax connection into a RJ-45 port at the customer demarcation point. The Data Over Cable Service Interface Specifications, or DOCSIS, technology behind cable broadband has increased steadily over the years, to the point where speeds can reach as high as 2 Gbps.
Fiber is often used as the transport medium for large businesses that require internet broadband throughputs higher than what twisted-pair or coax cables can deliver. With fiber, internet broadband services can reach 10 Gbps or higher.
Some wireless broadband options are used as primary or secondary backup connections at the internet edge. In most cases, businesses will opt for wired connectivity for internet access because wired is typically more reliable and less susceptible to outages or interference. In certain situations, however, wireless may be the only option for a business.
Point-to-point Wi-Fi, public LTE or 5G, and satellite broadband are common ways to connect a business or remote office to the internet with relative ease. Keep in mind that wireless throughput rates are significantly lower, compared with wired alternatives. Expect throughput rates to be well below 100 Mbps.
LAN and data center connections
Ethernet and wireless connectivity options are the dominant types of network connections for LANs.
From an Ethernet perspective, twisted-pair and fiber optics cables interconnect endpoints and uplinks. Twisted pair, fiber, direct-attached cable and Fibre Channel remain popular options in private data centers. Each connection type varies based on the types of devices connected, the required amount of throughput and the distances the connection needs to travel.
Wi-Fi is one of the most popular options for wireless LAN connectivity, as all modern laptops, smartphones and tablets come fully integrated with Wi-Fi chips and antennas. The latest Wi-Fi 6 standard offers increased speeds and improved efficiency, among other benefits.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is another form of wireless connectivity gaining traction in the LAN. BLE has several use cases, including propagating message notifications to remote workers and customers, as well as real-time tracking of business-critical mobile equipment that roam around a facility.
Businesses are beginning to show interest in private 5G connectivity. Due to the recent availability of freely accessible spectrum in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service frequency range, businesses can design and deploy their own 5G networks for private use.
Organizations use private 5G in situations where Wi-Fi presents technical shortcomings that private 5G can overcome. Wi-Fi might simply be a best-effort medium, while private 5G can guarantee improved performance and reduced latency.
The WAN portion of the overall corporate infrastructure is where the corporate LAN branches out and interconnects various secondary locations or branch sites to create a single unified network spanning a large geographic area. Depending on the available connectivity options and bandwidth required, WAN connections are either sourced through a network carrier or privately deployed by the network owner.
Carrier WAN connectivity
Some types of network connections for WAN connectivity options leased through a telecommunications carrier include the following:
- Metro Ethernet
- leased lines
- Synchronous Optical Network or Synchronous Digital Hierarchy
In these situations, the carrier is responsible for maintaining the upkeep and usability of the connection between two or more locations. Certain carriers may also offer wireless WAN connectivity services by way of point-to-point Wi-Fi, microwave, LTE or 5G, and satellite backhaul.
Internet broadband is also commonly used in conjunction with point-to-point VPN connections to provide a logically created and encrypted tunnel between two or more business locations. Any type of internet broadband can work, as long as it meets the necessary throughput and latency requirements.
Private WAN connectivity
Sometimes businesses want to interconnect two or more buildings but don't want to rely on a third party for WAN interconnection services. In these situations, dark fiber, microwave and point-to-point Wi-Fi are options that enable full control and data protection as traffic traverses the WAN.