Recent events have prompted organizations of all sizes and across verticals to make fast decisions about technology investments to keep employees online, customers satisfied, and revenue streams as stable as possible. As companies deployed new or scaled-up existing digital infrastructure to support collaboration platforms, video conferencing solutions, and virtual private networks (VPNs), many discovered additional challenges with network congestion, overloaded resources, and skyrocketing costs—none of which are sustainable for the long term. Here are a few strategies organizations can use to build and maintain IT resilience while optimizing spend.
Deploy a Multi-Cloud Architecture
According to IDC, nearly half of all IT spending in Q4 2019 was on cloud infrastructure, and it’s paying off. The dynamic nature of cloud technology allows for rapid changes in capacity to accommodate changes in demand. This elasticity is why social media apps haven’t flinched and why eLearning platforms have been able to scale to support new students around the world. Although managing multi-cloud environments can be complex, it gives companies more leverage in negotiating costs while taking advantage of the different providers' strengths, such as performance in different geographical regions. Having redundant resources ensures business continuity if one provider experiences a systemic failure. Shifting workloads to the other provider ensures applications remain available, and users continue streaming, working, learning, and connecting.
Balance Workloads and Minimize Costs with Traffic Steering
Network teams can more efficiently utilize infrastructure by using application traffic steering to dynamically distribute workloads based on performance and cost factors. To do this effectively, IT teams should have clear visibility into their cloud resource usage, ideally aggregated into a single view as part of their observability platform. This will inform how they manage capacity between providers and resources. Companies should also be tracking the health and response times of every part of their applications and measure against predefined metrics for system uptime and performance. Other important data sources will help to inform traffic decisions, including real-time metrics about network conditions, resource availability, and real user monitoring data.
Armed with this information, network teams can set up traffic steering policies to elastically shift workloads to new resources when capacity is exceeded, as well as to prevent over or under-provisioning, which can impact performance and drive up costs. Teams can set controls to rapidly spin up new cloud instances to increase capacity in strategic geographic locations where internet conditions are chronically slow or unpredictable, as well as route around outages and poor-performing cloud instances so that users are not impacted. In times of sustained heavy traffic or spikes, teams can route traffic to lower-cost resources to prevent excessive overages.
Automate Network Management
There is an unprecedented need for scale and automation in network management to support digital business. Manual processes are expensive, labor-intensive, and prone to errors that can take resources offline, killing operations, degrading customer loyalty, and requiring costly mitigation. Automating repetitive tasks, such as configuring DNS or a firewall, saves a lot of time and effort. This eliminates manual errors by standardizing deployment and configuration of network infrastructure.
Automation is easily achieved with infrastructure as code (IaC), which involves using an appliation progamming interface (API) to create, modify, and shut down infrastructure. Instead of configuring each device separately each time by running a script, network engineers build software files that define consistent ways of provisioning, configuring, and deploying infrastructure. This code can be version controlled, which serves as a form of documentation—it’s easy to detect what changes were made by whom in case there’s an issue—and rollback to a stable state is quick and easy. Standardization puts an end to “it worked in my environment” or “it worked on my machine,” as any issues can be easily reproduced, resulting in faster resolution times.
Coping with an Uncertain Future
Enterprises continue to operate under tremendous pressure to reliably deliver digital services and applications in spite of uncertainty and high-traffic conditions that will only continue. New research reveals peak network traffic has normalized at 25% to 30% above pre-pandemic levels and that aggregate traffic volumes continue to be over 25% above pre-pandemic levels. This is evidence of the lasting impact these events will have on how people work and connect, highlighting the importance of acting now to implement critical performance and cost optimization strategies. Businesses that invest in multi-cloud architecture, traffic steering, and network automation will remain resilient and enjoy a competitive advantage.
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