by Matt Allcoat, Chief Architect, Asia, Middle East, Africa & Turkey, BT
Digital transformation is a priority for today’s businesses. It helps open up new digital possibilities through transforming costs, improving customer experiences, driving improved operational efficiencies and creating new business models. However, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) implementing a digital transformation strategy are facing new technology challenges and choices.
Migrating to new platforms such as cloud, supporting global connectivity (including mobile platforms) and securely managing and making sense of the ever-increasing amount of data, all needs focus. CIOs who know their organisations need more flexibility and agility to succeed are therefore, already taking advantage of cloud-based IT services and applications to achieve this. However, they are struggling to get their infrastructure to deliver the rapid response, easy collaboration and constant innovation the digital business needs.
Future network technologies will address this by giving more choice to businesses for their digital transformation; offering a new way to build and manage networks that are fit for purpose in the digital age – more flexible, affordable, easier to manage and secure. The networks will allow for greater integration of a range of new technologies, thus making them more dynamic and services orientated. In fact, to provide the solutions modern business requires, networks of the future will be defined by software – not hardware.
So why move to future networks? The benefits are clear.
Truly, embracing the cloud – with more flexibility and agility
Our 2016 CIO report: the digital CIO showed that two of the biggest challenges faced by the CIO are; firstly, designing the new strategies and business models for increased connectivity and customer engagement (43%) and, secondly, implementing that strategy organisation-wide (39%). With this in mind, cloud has been dubbed the business model of the future for all businesses.
As such, businesses the world over are pursuing more economical, cloud-based bandwidth growth – because it enables greater visibility of digital traffic that is delivered both rapidly and cost-effectively – while also trying to strike a critical balance between security and performance. Cloud adoption gives businesses increased speed and agility, to turn on new services across the globe, in new geographic areas and markets – very simply and quickly. Additionally, these business imperatives are driving the move towards hybrid WAN, which in turn is leading telecoms providers to transform their business and offerings to become one-stop-shop cloud service integrators.
As the latest networking buzzwords; software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) provide businesses with a whole new way to build and manage corporate networks that are fit for the digital age. Building on this is dynamic network services (DyNS) that enhance the smart network, offering businesses parity between network resources and cloud services to bring new locations or branches online in much shorter timeframes.
With such programmable networks and dynamic network services, newer businesses will be able to quickly set up shop based purely on cloud consumption, and flourish unencumbered by traditional ICT models. Where, more traditional businesses can gain a competitive edge and move quickly into new areas or markets by adopting bi-modal information communication technology (ICT) practices, allowing new areas of the business to move ahead quickly in its consumption of new cloud services. Additionally, new applications such as Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) – that are exerting more pressure on existing network infrastructures – are supported, with tighter security and management of end devices.
Coping with increased demand, while reducing ICT spend
Bandwidth demand is growing significantly year on year. Everything from higher quality imaging to hungrier applications puts pressure on the networks whether they are public or private. With on-demand services difficult to deliver effectively, customers are seeing their network costs potentially growing, but not necessarily becoming more flexible. In many instances, this is causing businesses to look to cheaper internet services and potentially compromise quality for cost. Large scale adoption of cloud services is also driving more use of low cost public internet services and the subsequent acceptance of those services for business functions.
Hybrid networks are a cost-effective way of dealing with the increasing demand in bandwidth. For instance, by expanding internet capability typically provided locally at all sites, application traffic can be routed effectively. For latency sensitive or real-time applications (e.g. voice and video) the appropriate quality of service bandwidth can be provided with on-demand flex. Other lower priority traffic can then be offloaded to the internet and the two routes can be flexed during peak times. Hybrid also offers a more cost-effective way to achieve resilience.
Another way of coping with growing demand, whilst also keeping ICT spending lower, is that dynamic networks enable businesses to buy the reliable, deterministic, private bandwidth they need on demand instead of in advance. This means that businesses can pay for what they need, when they need it – rather than “taking a punt” and paying for what they think they may need.
Launching new business applications
As businesses transform, they typically develop new applications on cloud platforms and consume from cloud providers. They are then looking at introducing these new applications in an agile, secure fashion and without impacting existing business applications.
With the move to the cloud, businesses typically experience a reality check on the actual number and complexity of the applications the business is running. Most businesses will then run an application rationalisation programme, and see a need for far greater visibility of specific applications, their performance and the user experience.
Tools in this area, however, have historically been disparate, expensive and with a lack of available skills to act on the information provided. There is a greater dependence on, and need for, an integrated toolset with better application visibility and enforcement of corporate polices on approved application use – which can be achieved with dynamic network services.
For instance, the way our DyNS products do this is to recognise applications that flow across the network, then allow the IT manager and/or CIO to pick which are the most and least important, then they start redirecting the applications to take the most appropriate path at a point in time. Older systems only looked at one flow and set the priority – which they did without context of everything else happening at that precise second. With DyNS, however, the routing decision made for any given flow will depend on what else is happening right now.
This is another way of moving the business’ physical infrastructure inexorably towards peak performance and utilisation.
While it’s clear that digital is now a boardroom priority – and indeed, for many, a competitive imperative – everyone is at a different stage and transforming at different speeds. But, wherever a business is on their journey, it is crucial to have the right technology environment and service approach underpinning the business’ digital strategy. By partnering with an experienced cloud services integrator – who can offer the broadest possible range of network services to tackle complex digital transformation requirements – businesses will be well aligned to build a high-performance future network for their unique needs; with unparalleled choice, security, resilience, service, and agility. One that is designed for the digital age of the cloud.