Improving network agility is a must for IT users and organisations need to understand the core components of making agility a reality in networking. Paul Ruelas, Senior Director Product Management, GTT, explains how organisations can achieve first mover advantage and what it means for an organisation to be agile.
Today’s fast-moving digital age has created a level of uncertainty as to how a business or industry will look in a few years’ time. Digitalisation is rapidly changing the day-to-day operations of organisations; from creating new business models to changing how firms interact and the way that consumers are served.
Agility is a key factor when considering a business’s competitive edge. But how do we define it? With many businesses using the phrase interchangeably with speed, productivity, adaptability – or all three – what does it really mean?
First and foremost, agility is becoming synonymous with Digital Transformation and is the latest IT industry buzzword. When it comes to understanding the difference between agile development and agile practices, the definition is easier to get to grips with. Yet, it’s important to understand that the two go hand-in-hand when thinking in the context of networking.
As businesses continue to focus on Digital Transformation, they become dependent on the underlying network that aids their business processes, productivity and outputs. For example, an enterprise may choose to run sprints and stand-up meetings in an attempt to drive quicker competitive advantage. However, this can be hindered if its cloud networking infrastructure isn’t able to ensure that rapid and continuous updates can be deployed to the business. Likewise, as businesses become more reliant on agile cloud-based applications, they must ensure consistent application performance to provide a seamless user experience. That all relies on a robust underlying network.
Making first-mover advantage a reality
When taking customer needs and the drive for more efficient business processes into consideration, organisations are increasingly becoming motivated by the need to digitally transform. At the same time, the explosion of application traffic to the cloud, and the need for homogenous network performance at all sites, means the way organisations architect their networks needs to change.
To really gain first-mover advantage and be an industry leader, businesses need the ability to pivot and adjust as markets, customer demands and business models dictate. To do this, uptime and cost-efficiencies are essential factors that ensure stability and competitiveness.
Migrating to an app-based world
To solve the agility problem, organisations need to understand the core components of how to make agility a reality in a networking context. Firstly, businesses need to ensure that the network is application aware, predictable, accessible and cloud integrated. Applications are now distributed across IT environments – some living in the data centre, some at the edge and some in the cloud. This means organisations need the ability to connect to and access any application regardless of its location. An application-aware network can identify and classify applications and apply the appropriate optimisation to ensure peak performance per user.
In a digital economy, there is little room for sub-optimal performance of applications as businesses, employees and customers expect a consistently smooth and seamless experience, even when using a cloud network. This means that secure network connectivity needs to encompass the cloud to offer greater flexibility, agility and scalability. In addition, organisations should be able to ensure sustained availability of the network by leveraging the ability to have two or more lines in operation as a precautionary solution for failover.
Adaptability and flexibility
Secondly, it is undeniable that to enable agility, the network needs to be flexible, available on demand and easy to manage. Organisations need the ability to make real-time changes to user access or bandwidth to either support specific projects, or to support a spike in employee workload for a short duration.
Similarly, the organisation needs the ability to provision changes. With automated policy management, organisations have the ability to automatically rollout changes or updates to the enterprise network at speed, regardless of location.
A new networking approach
To make this agile Elysium a reality, organisations need to consider how they can rearchitect their network for a digital age. Agility is all about enabling enterprises to pivot quickly in response to change – potentially requiring the introduction of new products or services, the need to enter a new market or even create a new digital-centric business model.
Selecting the right networking technology needs to become a priority for enterprises. Combining the power of the Internet with greater use of software and virtualisation technologies using software defined wide area networking technologies (SD-WAN), allows enterprises to adapt to the varying demands and dependencies placed on the network.
Responding at speed is the new reality
In the coming years, SD-WAN is well positioned to become a strategic enabler for companies, allowing them to increase efficiency, enhance performance and improve security without increasing costs. SD-WAN offers the promise of zero-touch provisioning, allowing for faster time of service deployment. The availability of SD-WAN with universal CPE also creates the possibility of service chaining, providing the ability seamlessly add networking functionality such as WAN optimisation and enhanced security without the time and expense of deploying additional hardware. By prioritising a new networking approach, organisations can effectively prepare for the future and preserve their competitive edge.
For example, Europac, the international packaging brand, has embraced SD-WAN to gain competitive advantage. It has used SD-WAN to gain greater flexibility and optimise its network to support cloud-based applications, providing the organisation with the agility to support its Digital Transformation strategy.
With more and more businesses across sectors and geographies digitising their offerings, it’s time to embrace SD-WAN to support a cloud-based future and gain the agility required of a digital world. SD-WAN offers businesses enhanced control of their network, improves visibility and supports performance while offering bandwidth efficiency – all without increasing costs.
When moving to SD-WAN, it’s important to look for features that simplify network management. Offerings that allow businesses to use a single device to connect to multiple functions, manage software updates all in one place, reduce hardware costs and simplify installations, will consolidate network functions. In turn, this will improve agility and make it easier to rollout new networking services.