The story of content and reproduction made a big leap forward in 1877 when Thomas Edison invented the phonograph – a device that could mechanically capture sound vibrations waveforms by etching them onto records. With time, we moved on to portable tapes. Then came CDs, offering greater capacity and higher quality. But the real revolution in the music delivery model came when we moved from hardware to digital; to today’s digital music and streaming services, demonstrating the evolution from static, modular and hardware dependent content to fast, flexible on-demand consumption.
The real story here is one of demand and delivery. While music is fundamentally the same thing it has always been, the ways we distribute and consume it have evolved with technology to meet our new needs and demands. Today, the underlying network infrastructure that keep us connected to the world is undergoing a similar transformation. With people doing more online and more businesses leveraging cloud services, networks can no longer afford to be static and restricted, they need to go digital in the same way music has.
The demand for an agile network
Faced with an explosion of data and applications, increased security threats and changing customer demands, the legacy enterprise network needs its own revolution. And for enterprises to keep up with tomorrow’s employee, customer and business needs, they’ll have to not only upgrade their digital tools, they’ll also need a new kind of network.
Data and app growth: Network traffic demand is growing at a rate of 20 per cent each year due to cloud services, video streaming and business digitalisation. Every user, app, customer and device added creates more data for the network to carry. This makes capacity and hitting bandwidth limits a real concern for many businesses. But this isn’t just a question of increasing capacity. Networks now need to support the movement, storage and access to entirely new file types, and manage bandwidth so important data is prioritised – all while keeping the growing data piles secure.
Evolving security risks: 60 per cent of digital businesses will suffer a major service failure due to IT security teams’ inability to manage digital risk. Whether hackers are targeting your business apps or data directly or through end-point devices, you’re ultimately only as safe as the network that connects all these devices and your data. And some cyberattacks target the network directly, such as distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) which use bots to flood traditional networks with countless requests until systems crash and render your online services unavailable to real customers. As a result, businesses now need security embedded into the network and across a growing number of devices, with a range of benefits: pre-emptive threat detection and protection, and secure access to cloud.
Always-on services: The increased capabilities that technology brings also increases customers’ expectations. Round-the-clock access to online services and digital resources isn’t just demand now, it’s a basic expectation. This means your network has to be able to handle traffic both in and out of peak hours and periods, making the ability to scale, visibility over your network and ability to deploy new services key.
You can see how these trends are driving the need for change within today’s networks. See, traditional networks rely on fixed hardware to add resources or perform common management tasks. But with changing needs stemming from these trends, taking the traditional approach would still require physical networking products that need to be managed and maintained; we can’t keep increasing our bandwidth and storage capacity, we need to change the delivery model of our data.
To be ready to handle the evolving security threat, capacity and bandwidth needs, and deliver against the always-on service expectation, enterprise networks will have to leverage software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) technologies. SDN is an evolution of traditional network services; it automates the configuration of physical networks functionality, allowing them to become as flexible and agile as cloud computing. NFV also offers an innovative way to deploy and oversee networking services. It delivers the components needed to support a fully virtualised infrastructure, making network functions like security barriers able to run in software, activated in minutes over the network.
The foundation of digital business/enterprise
The enterprise network plays a critical role in making businesses more flexible, scalable and agile in managing ever growing and changing demands. In a SDN environment, new security barriers can be spun-up and deployed in an instant, while total network visibility helps you see everything that’s happening to spot malicious traffic faster. SDN and NFV doesn’t just meet needs, it’s about enabling businesses to do more.
Business leaders and technology strategists both want to help their companies achieve their big goals, fast. They are the architects tasked with delivering new digital services, but an inflexible network will prevent them from enabling innovation at the pace the business wants to move.
An agile, open and secure software-defined network is designed and delivered to meet the challenges of businesses’ digitalisation. It will ensure your network can support a digital workplace, consistently meet the data and analytics traffic demands of a smart business, and enable faster deployment of new solutions – and with Gartner estimating that SDNs can reduce provisioning times for new applications by 80 per cent they can certainly do so at speed.
Few things will be as critical to enabling businesses’ ambitions for digital transformation as modernising the networks that underpin every other potentially transformative technology. If IoT, AI, cloud and the rest are the latest songs and artists all businesses want to stay ahead of the competition, they’ll need to make sure they also have the flexible, on-demand network infrastructure to access how they want – or it’ll feel as smooth as trying to forward to the exact song on Side B of your Walkman.