As the new industrial revolution dawns, a golden age of seamless end-to-end connectivity between people, systems and end-user applications are becoming a reality. Decision-making processes are more data-driven, customer-led and people-centric than ever before. As technology advances at an exponential rate, our ability to fully utilise it, is where we’re lagging. So, as we look ahead, we envision an ideal, meticulously-designed and managed network that is always-on, agile to change and secure from all manner of cybersecurity threats.
Traditional networks are subject to increasingly strenuous usage as businesses become more mobile, generate larger volumes of data and eventually migrate to the cloud. Often, businesses on the path to digital transformation operate within legacy networks, adding layers of complexity to the deployment of innovative new digital services and ultimately hindering success. The adaptive problems and challenges for growth inherent in digital transformation lie in the failure to comprehensively assess solutions within the context of the entire digital ecosystem. It is imperative, therefore, that the journey begins with a deep-level understanding of the data and application requirements of the network.
Digital networks have become extremely versatile, accommodating the requirements of numerous remote workers, collaborative workspaces and regulatory frameworks, whilst simultaneously providing sufficient bandwidth and always-on availability. A robust network is therefore essential for the digital workplace – enhancing and driving workforce productivity through integration with the environment and prioritising business-critical applications. Among some of the most impactful technological innovations to emerge and develop in the last five years is Software-Defined Networking (SDN) which has improved and enhanced the agility, elasticity and flexibility of networks. This technology is defined as “a method through which network administrators can provision, manage, and even break down networks without the need for setting up physical hardware”. SDN enables network and IT managers to customise and reconfigure their networks on the go, while also enabling the virtualisation of physical and often proprietary hardware to cloud-based virtual machines.
Intent-based networking (IBN) which is regarded as a new entry in the world of networking technology focuses on the design, implementation, and improvement of network availability and agility. Current versions of IBN can automate operations such as Internet Protocol IP address settings, configure virtual Local Area Networks (LANs) and analyse network traffic in order to detect threats and provide indicators for solutions to network problems. IBN has the potential to allow organisations to speedily deploy and scale data centre network resources as an additional link in the evolutionary chain of network approaches.
While SDN is often (although not always) found alongside network function virtualisation technologies, it is in a sense related to IBN even though they serve different end goals. Leveraging off SDN and intent-based networking technologies, unlocks the potential of these networks, empowering businesses like never before.
Digital services facilitating business evolution
- Fluctuating traffic patterns: Applications accessing geographically-distributed databases and servers through public and private clouds require extremely flexible traffic management and access to bandwidth on demand
- The “consumerisation of IT”: Emerging ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) and ‘Bring Your Own Application’ (BYOA) trends require networks that are simultaneously flexible and secure
- The rise of cloud services: Users expect on-demand access to applications, infrastructure, and other IT resources to be consumed as-a-service (XaaS)
- Increased bandwidth through “big data”: Handling contemporary mega-datasets requires complex parallel processing, yielding a constant demand for increased capacity and connectivity
Through the use of SDN and automated network configuration, virtual machines can be implemented nearly as soon as they are provisioned, making it significantly easier to build and deploy digital solutions. Although SDN is commonly considered a tool for connecting assets in the cloud, the same technology functions on-site in data centres and networks, enabling organisations to enhance the mileage of network infrastructure, whilst building solutions to cater for their growing digital needs. Additionally, SDN networks, coupled with cloud services, unlock value exponentially faster than legacy networks utilising independent systems.
Although it is true that digital transformation facilitates a myriad of business drivers, such as rapid innovation, greater agility and enhanced competitive advantage, this is only possible with the right foundation. With the expansion in the capabilities of digitally intensive technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), this new network architecture will ensure that networks are capable of handling vast amounts of data whilst also ensuring that business operational systems function optimally.
The network an organisation implements is fundamental for digital transformation: an elastic and/or flexible network powered by SDN will seamlessly bridge the gap between applications and end-users, driving effortless growth of the digital service portfolio and providing truly meaningful services to customers. As businesses also map out existing demands and future applications to make certain that implementation is successful, the transition to this new network infrastructure will create significant value going forward, effectively changing the face of business operations.