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Transforming the Network for Greater Agility and Security

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(Image: Pixabay)

Every business today is preparing themselves for success in the digital world, but that’s no mean feat as the enterprise IT environment is becoming increasingly complex.

The proliferation of consumer technology has enabled users to access information from anywhere, any time and on any device. This ‘democratization of technology’ means that IT organizations are no longer able to independently decide, how, where and which employees access information.

Enterprises’ should therefore digitally transform with the following end-goals in mind:

  • Become more agile to meet customer expectations of rapid innovation and issue resolution
  • Deliver consistent performance across the globe while expanding into new markets or while bringing new products to market
  • Achieve ubiquitous access to applications and collaboration platforms among users, customers, and partners to innovate and improve productivity
  • Minimize risk from external threats and risks associated with a rapidly changing technology landscape, online presence, and disaster events

Managing all the above creates complexity and puts tremendous pressure on enterprise network infrastructure, requiring businesses to rethink their core architecture.

In essence, IT departments need to keep things simple, stable, and secure, while at the same time, offer an open and accessible architecture, bring agility and value to the business and future proof it. COVID-19 is making the tasks of juggling all these priorities even more challenging.

WAN holds the key to agility

A recent report from 451 research found that 53 percent of enterprises see modernizing IT infrastructure for scale, speed, availability, and efficiency as the most effective way to achieve business agility. However, one of the least agile components in today’s IT infrastructure is the underlying WAN, and enterprises are increasingly turning to modernizing this layer to enable and accelerate the pace of their digital transformation.

The right approach to building the next generation WAN is critical to enterprise success. The clear solution is not to fight the cloud but embrace it, by properly integrating the internet into the network. This switch will not take place overnight, with billions of dollars already invested in traditional ethernet and MPLS networks, but this is the essential next step in the digital transformation of the enterprise network.

According to a report by Adroit Market Research, the Southeast Asian cloud computing market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of more than 13% to reach USD 40.32 billion by 2025, driven by the rising demand for cloud computing among the emerging small and mid-sized businesses in this region. Security has often been raised as a primary concern in hybrid cloud environments. To meet these public-private hybrid demands, the internet needs to be predictable, secure, and flexible, while the overall hybrid networking solution must be globally consistent and agile.

To achieve this, enterprises need a global network integration platform, which securely supports the access and distribution of data and content, and simply connects users (corporate/branch offices, mobile employees, customers, etc.) to services (corporate data centers, public clouds, IAAS/SAAS/PAAS, etc.). This network integration platform provides the agile architecture that enterprises need to meet the growing demands of digital transformation.

Enterprises need an open and agnostic WAN architecture which lets them use multiple access technologies, best-in-class suppliers globally, business broadband sourced locally and distributed cloud connectivity closer to user base – what we refer to as the ‘underlay’. In addition, depending on the specific application stacks and their respective performance requirements (including real time applications, e.g. UCC and voice), the underlay may need to be custom designed and include a site-wise solution which may comprise MPLS, public internet or an internet WAN with predictability and performance guarantees that are fit for business, to be able to deliver consistent performance and user experience globally. The ability to create and manage a hybrid set-up in this environment is the foundation of the global network integration platform.

While the choice of network technologies and access methods allows customers to be flexible, nimble and cost effective, an intelligent, integrated SD-WAN solution, which we refer to as the ‘overlay’, allows the delivery of superior, consistent performance, as well as availability and control, completing the puzzle. It sits on top of a complex hybrid infrastructure to maximize the performance of the next generation hybrid WAN through application/business aware routing and load balancing across multiple connections; provide security as an embedded feature; and offer centralized analytics to extend better visibility and control.

The network must still be sound

In reality, there is no one-size-fits-all for network transformation. Networks today are 10 times more complex than they were 10 years back, and SD-WAN or not, there is no one “silver bullet” to make such complex environments succeed – each layer must be addressed in its own environment.

SD-WAN in itself is not going to create an underlay path that does not exist. There are many inter-dependencies between the overlay and the underlay, and while proponents of SD-WAN are positioning it as the panacea, SD-WAN is only part of the solution, not the solution. Shifting to an SD-WAN gives companies the necessary agility to adapt to market changes in real time, but organizations must not forget that the underlay should still be built on a rock-solid core network.

Gaurav Anand is Vice President, Global Enterprise Solutions, Americas, at Tata Communications.