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The Need for a Digital-Native Network


Jan Hein Bakkers

Research Director, European Tech Solutions and Ecosystems IDC

Digital transformation needs to go hand in hand with network transformation. The success of DX strategies and the adoption of technologies like cloud, Big Data, mobility, IoT, and artificial intelligence simply depend on the capabilities of the underpinning network. And we see that organizations increasingly recognize this need for change. In IDC's 2018 Enterprise Communications Survey, 94% of U.K. respondents said they expect to make major changes to their WAN. That doesn't mean it will be easy, however. This is underlined in the same survey, with network transformation mentioned as one of the key IT/network challenges by 35% of organizations, making it the third-biggest challenge, behind security threats and modernizing IT management.

The digital-native enterprise is the term we use at IDC to describe the digitally transformed. Such an organization can innovate at pace, empowers the workforce to make customer-centric decisions very quickly, and takes an ecosystem approach to running the business. This digital-native enterprise will need a digital-native network. This network is application-centric and supports the right end-user experience for each application and user.

IDC's vision of the digital-native network identifies five key areas of improvement. The network will become more flexible, letting organizations respond immediately to changing requirements, turning up and down, and on and off. It will be more manageable, by reducing complexity and providing increased visibility into the performance of network and applications or enabling end users to take direct action via self-service tools. It will be more scalable, which will ensure the network can continue to cope with ever-growing requirements. A digital-native network will also be more cost effective, to enable the balancing act between growing requirements and much flatter budgets. Finally, it will be more secure, to safeguard data and applications from a growing range of threats and to ensure compliance.

We see a number of key building blocks that will enable this network evolution. Network virtualization technologies (such as SDN and NFV), automation, and intelligence will play a pivotal role by making the network programmable, more flexible and responsive, and ultimately self-driving. At the same time the role of underlay connectivity should not be underestimated. Connectivity is clearly changing. The days of the monolithic private network are behind us, but that does not mean the average enterprise can rely completely on the public internet, at least not anytime soon. We see hybrid network architectures as a key component of our digital-native network vision. Mixing the reliability and predictable performance of private networks, like MPLS and high-speed Ethernet, with the ubiquity and cost-effectiveness of public internet will enable organizations to optimize cost and performance for every location, user, and application.

Digital transformation is rewriting network requirements. This likely means your network will need to change. Start exploring today how you can leverage the building blocks discussed above. Then consider how you can migrate in a seamless and risk averse manner from where you are today to your own digital-native network of the future.

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