Topics in this article

The accelerated quest for digital transformation and cloud adoption, is driving greater focus on networks. The network has to be modernized as it is the network that connects every aspect of the enterprise backbone – from the on-premises servers to the public clouds and the edge data centers, which can include employees at remote locations or branch offices.

The network plays the most crucial role in any digital transformation initiative. If networks are not modernized to shape up to the demands of the new world, then organizations will struggle to achieve the overall goals of the digital transformation initiative. If the network is not modernized, then the overall gains from moving to the cloud will be lost. This is corroborated by our 2020 Global Network Insights Report. The report says that cloud and services investments are increasing and outpacing organizations, on-premises infrastructure spends, causing refresh and upgrade patterns to show signs of slow down. In the research, NTT discovered almost half (47.9%) of businesses’ network infrastructure assets were ageing or obsolete, which significantly reduced the network’s ability to deliver what businesses need. Many organizations (60%) said that by 2023, networking will be deemed as core to their digital strategies and believed that the network was the platform for digital transformation.

Key steps or initiatives that must be taken to accelerate the journey towards network modernization:

Network architecture redesign

The network design must be architected in a way that it is open and flexible to meet the needs of a dynamic environment that can provide access to applications and services without any connectivity issues. The network must be designed to be programmatically driven and must consider all the critical facts with respect to the network. This can include the business applications landscape, the cloud services in use and traffic patterns. As more work moves towards remote locations and video-based applications (which consume more bandwidth), the network architecture has to take into account all these parameters.

Network optimization for cloud environments

For a successful hybrid cloud strategy, it’s extremely important for the network to be fully optimized for the modern multicloud environment. Our 2021 Global Hybrid Cloud Report shows that network performance and availability is the second biggest barrier to hybrid cloud adoption. Older networks are not able to adapt to the new requirements that are brought about by a cloud environment. As such, the network has to be optimized to make use of software-defined networking (SD-WAN) technologies, network virtualization and maintaining consistent service quality across on-premises and cloud-based environments. This shift allows for greater automation and provisioning of network resources on demand.

Leverage SD-WAN for network modernization

In a multicloud scenario, it’s common for organizations to face issues with respect to optimizing bandwidth and reduce latency. This is more relevant for remote locations, as enterprise traffic gets routed from the remote location to a central data center, which is again routed to the cloud. In such cases, the cost of bandwidth can be extremely expensive. If an organization opts for SD-WAN, it can use the software capabilities to decide the most optimum or the most cost-effective path. For example, as many enterprises today use Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) based applications, an SD-WAN setup can route all SaaS-related communications directly to the cloud instead of routing it to the data center and the cloud. This helps in proper use of bandwidth while reducing latency.

In modern networks, different applications have different bandwidth requirements. Accordingly, different policies and bandwidth thresholds can be set for different applications like video conferencing applications or core applications such as enterprise resource planning (ERP). With SD-WANs, enterprises can set policies with respect to prioritization and ensuring minimum bandwidth, which helps in ensuring service assurance across the multicloud ecosystem. Additionally, as SD-WANs have the capability of measuring the quality of network, they are well suited for modernizing the network as they can monitor the network for factors such as latency and packet loss. Enterprises can also gain from the flexibility of using different connectivity mediums as the basic architecture of SD-WAN is transport service agnostic. Enterprises can use SD-WAN migration as a big opportunity to update. If the SD-WAN is ‘managed’, it takes out the labor-intensive elements and uncertainties and puts it into the capable hands of dedicated professionals with the training and experience to design and maintain an optimally performing SD-WAN network.

Automation for performance

With increasing digitization, the demands on the network have gone up exponentially. Automation can play a huge role in improving the performance of the network without much human intervention. We’ve been using the immense power of AIOps and predictive network analytics operations to proactively detect and alert enterprises of 95% of issues before they impact business health. Proactive scheduled maintenance of networks can help enterprises to proactively resolve issues before any possible performance degradation such as outages or congestion. Automation can help enterprises provision resources on demand, which automatically allocates and deallocates resources based on demand. The eventual goal is to move towards autonomous networks through the ability to automatically monitor, analyze, control and recover. Most enterprises today do not have the capability to modernize their network. In such cases, it’s recommended to take the help of a managed service provider (MSP) that can help enterprises architect the network and design it by keeping in mind the performance and accessibility requirements for providing exceptional quality of experience for all local and remote consumers. Ideally, enterprises should choose MSPs who have the capability and the infrastructure to provide multiple high-speed cloud connectivity options. This must be well supported by automation, AIOps, analytics and reporting capabilities.

In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic ignited a drive to reimagine and modernize your network for the cloud era. This can ensure that your network is in the best shape to address current and future requirements that are mandatory for competing in a digital world.