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Your Network as a Platform for Business Innovation
By Matt Kolon, CTO for Asia Pacific Japan, Brocade
Seventy-five percent of CIOs state that the network directly impacts their organization’s ability to achieve its business goals. For almost a quarter of them, it is a significant issue. All applications and solutions are accessed via a network, but the network has fallen behind the applications and services it delivers.
The changes of the past decade - software, social networks, mobility, and cloud -demand a fundamentally new type of network.
At the same time, customers, be they consumers or other businesses, are demanding and expecting more. They want faster, more personalized, more tailored, more digital customer selection, purchase and engagement experiences. They no longer compare competing offers on location or brand, or even price. Today, they give their business based on value, and the ability to access information, transactions and communications how and when they want to, on the platform of their choice.
Businesses need to stay on top of these trends, and create the application-enabled environment required to support their goals. At the same time, they must ensure that access to critical applications is guaranteed by eliminating downtime and adopting solutions to protect and accelerate application performance.
Simply adding more of the same devices to the network is not the answer, nor is sticking with a rigid, physical, legacy approach to design while trying to deploy new flexible, application-centric technologies. No organization should be held to ransom by its outdated network.
Businesses need to move forward from old approaches to New IP networking; an agile, flexible and future-proof network that is designed to keep up with today’s fast-changing needs.
There are five steps that can help organizations align their network and business, and understand how network automation and intelligence can increase business agility, performance and productivity.
First Step – Transformation Tipping Point
In order to create their own New IP network, organizations need to recognize what their key challenges are today, and they need to understand how elements of the New IP work and interact with each other to support the organization’s immediate and longer term strategy.
Understanding where an organization is and where it needs to be should incorporate not just the solutions and technology elements, but also the processes, resources and dependencies involved.
It is useful to first audit what have been installed in the data center. It is also recommended to consider what level of support IT service providers can provide to support the organization’s overall business strategy, and then plan out the New IP network journey that is aligned with the overall business strategy and goals.
Step Two – Automated Network
Legacy networks require a very high degree of manual management and maintenance. Not an issue a couple of decades ago, the physical and highly complex nature of these networks now means that a ‘small tweak’ to the network can take days, weeks or even months. The risk of error is also high. More than 70 percent of network downtime is estimated to be caused by human error.
IT departments are often unable to meet demands for immediate deployment and access to new applications. This, plus the cost and scale-at-speed advantages, has driven massive growth in cloud-delivered application models. However, cloud access is usually still dependent on corporate network connectivity.
What businesses need is a highly automated, operationally-aligned infrastructure that delivers application acceleration and secure cloud connectivity, while eliminating network down time. The New IP begins with increasing automation and intelligence with in the network to reduce the margin of error and substantially increasing speed.
Programmable IP Fabric networks create connections between the network and data center devices, and thus create networks. In a fabric, every device is aware of every other device, enabling self-forming, self-healing networks. Intelligence across the infrastructure automates the vast majority of network management and maintenance tasks, creating a simpler, more secure, one-to-many command and control system. All services are kept up and available, at all times, eliminating down time and accelerating performance.
Whatever happens in the wider environment, traffic flows on the network are protected and maintained as the network self-regulates to optimize and maximize performance. Applications can thus be deployed more easily, and far more quickly, with significantly reduced margins of error.
Step Three – Agile Infrastructure
Agility, the ability to change direction or adopt new strategies quickly as market and customer trends evolve at speed, is increasingly a critical commercial requirement.
Unfortunately, that requirement is not always supported by the IT infrastructure. Adopting physical devices that automate and accelerate the IT environment is a necessary first step, but to drive agility the next step is to extend that automation across multiple domain silos. This supports a virtualized environment for the performance, speed and cost benefits required.
By selecting Virtual Network Functions (VNF) over traditional hardware devices, the network it self can provide flexibility and scale at the speed of business.
Virtual functions and devices can be easily repositioned and refocused in minutes, as business needs change. They are also far more cost-effective, as they do not have the space, power, or cooling requirements of physical devices. This enables investment and resource to be refocused on innovation, which provides the digital differentiation required to compete effectively.
Step Four – Intelligent Services
The rate of change, data growth, and the rate at which devices and services are being connected to networks is not slowing any time soon. The ability to respond quickly and efficiently, to be able to adapt to and embrace change, is a critical element in any organization.
Opting for solutions that support or are designed on open standards and software will help organizations make more changes faster. They will also reduce complexity and total cost of ownership, as well as improve performance and efficiency.
As the business request for real-time insight increases, Software-Defined Networks (SDN) and advanced network analytics can support investments in big data analysis platforms, while maximizing the value of IT investments.
Step Five – Innovative Business
These five steps focus on creating a reliable, scalable, affordable network that can evolve and embrace the decisions that will be made later. Understanding how to continue that evolutionary journey is key to the success of any organization’s overall strategy.
Whether businesses want to improve productivity and efficiency internally, to expand, to improve supply chain management, or to deliver new differentiated services externally, the network will make or break the chances of success.
The New IP is a model for business-centric networks that address both immediate challenges and those still to come.