Preparing the network for continuous innovation
Businesses and governments are operating in a world where continuous digital transformation is critical to success. However, this continuous transformation is having a significant impact on organisations – and on their networks in particular. In this article, we explore why Network as a Service (NaaS) offerings are now being sought to solve these challenges.
All teams, from leadership down, will need tools and processes to help approach network management differently to allow them to innovate freely. They will need sophisticated defences that help neutralise threats before they become serious. They will be relying on sensors and software that not only collect and analyse data, but also help forecast and operationalise decision-making. Customer service will need to be frictionless, memorable and secure — over and over again.
With digital-readiness a fluid concept, agility and resilience are now core to the delivery of services and offerings. While a study by Constellation Research found that 68% of surveyed businesses said their digital transformation efforts have yielded positive ROI, many organisations are treating digital transformation as a continuous journey to cope with rapidly shifting competitive landscape and global upheaval.
How digital transformation challenges networks
During the pandemic-driven flight to digital, the network has become the backbone and single essential foundation for all other technologies that ultimately drive value within any business. The network connects people, applications, machines and services where, when and how they need.
The network needs to provide the intelligence, flexibility and reliability to change with the business as new technologies are adopted, and it must facilitate new ways for people and organisations to engage and connect in a global economy, any time and in any way.
It follows that digitally-savvy organisations require a flexible, intelligent and agile network to support continuously changing operations and cater to flexible plans for the future.
For example, the growing volume, variety and velocity of data, and the need to give people timely access to information to improve decision making requires flexible, adaptable networks. This flexibility not only allows employees to make faster decisions and improve their processes, but also to deliver great customer experiences.
Similarly, the increase in cyber threats is causing organisations to re-think network strategies. Fast-tracking solutions allows organisations to quickly address the increased use of digital e-commerce and shift to a remote and dispersed workforce to provide resilient network solutions.
And finally, increased customer expectations, mobile devices, cloud computing and connected machines are driving massive changes in behaviour and business processes that are putting greater demands on networking.
We can see that scalable, reliable networking is fast becoming the key foundation that businesses need to innovate, grow and prosper.
Moving from legacy to agility
Legacy network infrastructure wasn’t designed for today’s dynamic applications and always-on users. Networks based on physical hardware and fixed assets will struggle to keep pace with flexible, programmable NaaS technologies.
NaaS solutions are integrated hybrid connectivity platforms that can consist of a mixture of MPLS, Public Internet, Broadband, and Ethernet services. The platforms are programmable, agile, on-demand, and automated.
This hybrid connectivity platform is also orchestrated with the software defined network (SDN) and additional virtual services layer to perform service-chaining of other technologies in a virtualized manner. This additional technology layer is known as Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and acts as a replacement for legacy network devices be they routers, firewalls or wide area network (WAN) acceleration instances. This is also what enables organisations to deliver network and security services on a micro-services basis. The net result is that organisations can reduce costs by reducing their hardware footprint and virtualising their application environment.
In this way, CIOs can consider NaaS as a commercial models to move away from costly network hardware refresh cycles and CAPEX type models to a true pay as you go OPEX model specifically tailored to the dynamic and changing nature of a network topology.
Key steps to move to NaaS
Here are the key steps for IT leaders to take in moving to an automated, highly programmable, self-healing, and highly secure network service environment:
- Rethink connectivity and align application and customer experience needs with underlying connectivity – in many cases this will likely be a hybrid network environment.
- Move from physical deployments to virtual and software enabled service deployment models.
- Integrate Cloud Services Platforms into the network to scale deployments in real time.
- Get visibility into application services, not just to track quality, but also transactions (which are linked to customer experience).
These steps are precursors to ensure an organisation’s technology platform is ready for other service capabilities like Private 5G, Multi-Edge Compute (MEC) and the Internet of Things (IoT) amongst other emerging service offerings.
Organisations are moving beyond digital transformation and are now viewing network transformation as a means to connect, protect and deliver positive customer experiences.
Connectivity goes beyond providing Wi-Fi or WANs to providing context for how operations or services are experienced physically or virtually. This could mean migrating a database to the cloud or delivering mobile edge computing for immersive customer experiences.
Network protection is top of mind across the C-suite. According to Accenture, CEOs increasingly hold direct budgetary oversight over cybersecurity spending, rather than CIOs. Enterprises have realised — at times painfully — that the reputational hazard of a data breach is far too great for security to be treated as just a line item on a budget. Network resilience is at the heart of this, and trusted digital experiences.
Delivering quality customer experiences is perhaps the most challenging and exciting benefit of getting the network right. Offering a valuable service is table stakes. Taking that service to market with a strategy backed by sound, actionable intelligence — and with the ability to adjust both the strategy and even the offering in near-real time — will separate the innovators from the imitators. And when organisations ultimately harness the power of 5G, opportunities for customer experience differentiation can expand exponentially.
Employing a NaaS approach
Tackling the continuous demands of digital transformation requires the expertise and objectivity of a nimble partner — one who can make a quick, pragmatic assessment of the landscape, apply solutions and, critically, see it through with you.
Organisations can achieve multiple benefits by taking a service-based approach to their network requirements, including:
- Improve agility by virtualising the application environment which means new site deployments can be predefined and deployed quickly.
- Decrease contract, procurement, and engineering cycles by working with a single partner who can contract services centrally.
- Improve management of operations using a single partner who can manage the hybrid connectivity platform in addition to the SDN/Virtual Services stack, versus having to deal with multiple connectivity providers.
- Achieve a cost-effective cloud-first strategy where key Cloud Service Providers can fully integrate into a network environment. Additionally, DevOps to production is instantaneous, cloud environment and applications can scale on-demand.
- Select a commercial model which includes any network service offerings (SD-WAN, NFV, Managed Device Services, WAN/LAN configurations, amongst others) under a single cost without the need to worry about hardware refresh cycles.
Digital transformation has brought with it the promise of agility, flexibility and continuous innovation. To achieve these outcomes, it’s important to prepare for next-gen networking to lay the groundwork in preparation for the promise of 5G and MEC, all while updating traditional security models to meet tomorrow’s challenges.
Taking a NaaS approach to meet current digital transformation needs can provide the baseline boost that all enterprises are looking for to meet new requirements for threat intelligence, business agility, delivering great customer experience and preparing the organisation to cater for the future.
To explore how to get your organisation ready for a new era of agility – click here.
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