Digital Transformation Needs Fundamental Rethink of Networking
by Milind Bhise
$500,000. That’s the current approximate cost of a taxi medallion in New York City. Just a couple of years back it was over a million dollars. Share of trips of New York City’s Yellow Taxi has dropped from 84% in April 2015 to 65% in April 2016 (Source: NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission and Morgan Stanley Research). Is it the Uber-Lyft effect?
We hear a lot about Digital Transformation. What exactly is it? Simply put, Digital Transformation is the impact and change due to the application of digital technology. And it’s an initiative that enterprises are clearly willing to invest in – IDC says that in 2019 the annual Digital Transformation spend will be $2.1T (Source: IDC, 2016).
Digital Transformation is critical for competitive advantage in today’s digital economy, for any business, small or large. But what does it mean to your business? It looks different for different businesses but with a common theme – the integration of digital technology into many or all areas that leads to fundamental changes in a way the business operates. For example, Marriott has done an excellent job using technology for learning, engagement, and sharing across its multiple brands. Rather than letting its large size hinder any changes, Marriott focused on tapping into the value of its employees.
Nine out of 10 IT leaders say that legacy systems are preventing them from harnessing the digital technologies they need to grow and become more efficient. (Source)
Twenty years ago, the enterprise network was relatively simple. Majority of the employees worked in their assigned locations and all applications were on-premises. The enterprise WAN (Wide Area Network) was a “straight line” – a link between the branch and the main location. Fast forward ten years and you suddenly have a lot of complexity to deal with. Networks are unpredictable, complex and insecure. Networks are both private and public. Users are mobile as well as remote. Business gets done in multiple locations. The WAN is no longer a single connection between the branch and the headquarters. And then there is the Cloud, the big disrupter. Applications reside in the Cloud or on-premises and the same thing is true for data. The number of applications has also grown considerably. IT is more distributed and fragmented than ever. How can IT react and manage this shift and increased expectations? In the highly centralized, controlled, and self-contained enterprise IT environments of the past, static hardware-based networking worked ok. But digital transformation is happening now, and fast. It includes cloud, services, mobile. It’s hybrid, it’s the Internet, it’s the user. And the one thing that connects everything together is, the network. Taming this chaos of hybrid apps, hybrid networks, and mobile users and Cloud demands a new approach to networking.
You cannot be agile and expect to go through a successful digital transformation if your network is not easy to design, deploy and manage. You need a software-defined approach that offers you the flexibility of central management and orchestration. Bringing up a branch cannot be a month long project in today’s world. Moving data, applications, and storage to the cloud are all critical steps on the path to digital transformation. Now, enterprises need to bring the same cloud-grade agility to networking that they are achieving with cloud-based apps (SaaS) and infrastructure (IaaS).
Enter SD-WAN. An ideal SD-WAN solution tames this chaos of hybrid apps, hybrid networks, and mobile users. It will enable agility, improved reliability, improved performance and reduced costs. Enterprise IT can now do more with less!
An ideal SD-WAN solution should be able to orchestrate apps, networks, and devices to provide seamless access to digital services for end-users. It should be able to provide secure connectivity across all elements of your network – LAN, WAN and increasingly the Cloud. Creating an enterprise-scale software-defined connectivity and orchestration fabric requires the ability to:
- Manage centrally from a cloud console with a complete view of the connectivity fabric that unifies all enterprise networks, from the hybrid WAN at branch locations, into cloud infrastructure environments and even reaching to the end user with branch wireless and wired LAN networks.
- Orchestrate globally with business-aligned policies that automate enforcement of performance objectives and access privileges for all apps/users, wherever they may be.
- Deploy remotely with zero-touch activation of on-premises network components, and easy extension into cloud networks.
The network is a critical element of Digital Transformation and a fundamental rethink of networking is imperative for a successful Digital Transformation.
Milind Bhise is the Senior Director of Product Marketing at Riverbed Technologies. He has over twenty years of experience in networking and telecom. Prior to Riverbed, he was a founding team member of Aviatrix, a venture funded cloud native networking company where he was responsible for global marketing. He has also held various senior management roles at Fluke Networks, Aricent Group, Proxim Wireless and Nortel Networks.