What Is an Enterprise Network?

"Enterprise network" denotes the IT infrastructure that midsize and large organizations use to provide connectivity among users, devices, and applications. The goal is to support the organizations' objectives by consistently delivering connected digital services reliably and securely to workers, partners, customers, and, increasingly, also things.

Enterprise networking architecture

What does an enterprise network comprise?

While an enterprise network needs to deliver end-to-end services to users, things, and applications, it may consist of separate but connected constituent domains. Typically, each constituent network is designed, provisioned, and optimized for its own purpose and business objectives. Constituent network types include:

  • Campus, branch, and Internet of Things (IoT): These networks provide fixed and mobile access to users and things. They are present in all areas of an organization, both in offices and in operational spaces such as manufacturing and warehouse facilities. These networks are optimized for transparent, secure access and high density.
  • Data center and hybrid clouds: These networks connect to and among applications, workloads, and data, within on-premises data centers and private and public cloud services. They're optimized for low latency, security, and mission-critical reliability.
  • Wide-area networks (WANs): These networks connect facilities, buildings, or campuses to other branches, to data centers, or to cloud resources. They're optimized for user experience and bandwidth efficiency.

How are enterprise networks evolving?

  • Providing a foundation for the modern digital enterprise: Increasingly, networks are expected to improve security, enhance user experience, and support many devices performing essential business tasks. Well-designed enterprise networks support a variety of users, devices, smart things, and applications to provide consistent assured service.
  • Using network controllers: As the command and control centers of modern enterprise networks, controllers orchestrate all functions of the network. They perform tasks such as translating business objectives into policies, automating network device operations, performance monitoring, and troubleshooting.
  • Expanding scope: As the number of network transactions originating or terminating outside of traditional corporate perimeters increases--owing to trends such as expansion to multiple public clouds, mobility, and working from home--the network needs to extend visibility, control, and security to wherever users, things, and applications are located.
  • Integrating enterprisewide: Enterprises are now adopting a holistic, open networking strategy that integrates across constituent network domains and with applications and IT systems. Such integrations enable consistent performance, streamlined operations, improved compliance, and security enforcement throughout the organization.

Advantages of an optimized enterprise network

Always-on connectivity

A well-designed enterprise network provides the proper connectivity for all users, things, devices, and applications present in an organization, as appropriate for the role, purpose, and location of each.

Optimized user experience

An enterprise network can help improve the user experience through proactive network optimization, faster issue resolution, proper prioritization of essential traffic, and helping to ensure security and privacy. 

Readiness for digital transformation

An enterprise network can be designed to support digital initiatives needed to quickly adapt to rapidly evolving needs, including expansion, scaling, growth, and introduction of new services.

Easier network management 

Network management tools such as network controllers give administrators the ability to set access rules and permissions for users and departments, add new users or functions easily, and monitor performance and take corrective action, all from a central interface. 

Enhanced security 

In addition to security applications and devices, such as firewalls and secure Internet gateways, an enterprise network becomes a primary detector of threats and an enforcer of security and compliance. It does so with device identification, profiling, and verification, network monitoring, authentication, access controls, segmentation, and device and account management.

Flexible software subscriptions 

Enterprise networks that use subscription-based licensing get continuous access to the latest networking and security innovations. They are better able to keep pace with their expanding demands as technologies and requirements change.

Seamless cloud integration

As more and more data and applications are developed, deployed, and delivered across multiple public clouds, enterprise networks provide seamless connectivity between users and cloud applications. They also optimize workloads between on-premises locations and public clouds.