New Age, New Requirements, More Innovation: Three Ways to Keep Up (Part 2)
If you’ve read Part 1 of this series, you hopefully now have a solid understanding of how businesses must keep up with today’s pace of innovation in order to thrive. If we’re going to talk about innovation at the enterprise level, then we must talk about what’s happening within IT.
Network infrastructure is the backbone of every organization. For some companies, that backbone needs serious strengthening due to advances in communication and collaboration. The way employees connect internally and externally today make IT changes vital for sustainability. System engineers, network architects and CIOs are responsible for ensuring their organizations not only stay current, but surpass the status quo.
Networking over the Decades
We’ve seen nothing short of explosive growth within the world of connectivity in the last 15 to 20 years. For example, research shows that in 2000 only 6% of the world were Internet users. By 2015, that number had increased to about 42%, representing 3.1 billion users worldwide. That same year, revenue from mobile data services peaked at $105 million—today, revenue hovers around $500 billion.
In just 25 short years, we’ve evolved from the dawn of the World Wide Web to a complete digital overhaul. Consider, for example, Web-based collaboration solutions that seamlessly combine capabilities like video conferencing, IM and file sharing. All functionality is available via the touch of a finger from any device, anywhere, anytime. This means you’re no longer tied to a physical location, but you still need a hell of a strong network connection to handle it all without costly bouts of downtime.
All of these changes are powerful enough to render legacy networking solutions inadequate to meet Digital Enterprise needs. Today it’s all about Ethernet and IP. The problem is that these are such complex, hierarchal, multi-protocol environments that they’re unable to support desired business outcomes and agility (at least not without the highly sophisticated provisioning tools needed to hide all this complexity, which MPLS is also required). Clearly, not every enterprise businesses can afford and sustain such high OPEX costs. Today, about 95% of customers still live in this legacy environment, while expecting different results. It seems unreasonable to expect different outcomes.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with organizations that deployed these older solutions back in the day. That was simply what was available at the time, and it can be difficult to find an exit strategy. But this is no longer good enough. Legacy solutions don’t work, and will not allow your business to digitize or move at the pace it needs to in order to continually innovate and excel.
SDN: Networking of Today, Tomorrow and Beyond
So, what’s the solution? You have to look at an alternative for your networking infrastructure. For many businesses, this alternative involves software-based architecture, like Software-Defined Networking (SDN).
SDN promises to enable users to directly control the network resources by separating the network control plane from forwarding functions. The architecture is to be easily-manageable, open standards-based, and vendor-neutral, enabling businesses to sufficiently handle today’s dynamic computing and storage needs. Perhaps most notable is that SDN is not to depend on proprietary software. This enables users to write their own application profiling in order to easily provision network resources.
Overall, the SDN market is set to grow from $289 million in 2015 to $8.7 billion in 2020, representing a CAGR of 98%. That’s pretty impressive stuff, and I’m not just saying that as a chief technologist of Software-Defined Architecture.
The bottom line is your business will only go as far as its network infrastructure will take it. If your business is running on restrictive architecture, will you be able to master data context, awareness and intelligence? Will you truly unlock ubiquitous connectivity? We definitely need something different. Your organization deserves something better than a legacy model.
The objective is clear. We need to deliver a solution that’s way more agile, more resilient, open and secure. To this end, there are generally two paths available to get to SDN:
- Traditional SDN: Traditional SDN is aimed at centrally building a software controller and bringing all of the control plane protocols in a legacy environment towards application profiling. It’s widely believed that this profiling approach makes it easier to deploy apps. In this way, if you want to deploy a certain solution, you can access a pre-defined application profile from every angle—for example, security policies—but how complex was it to create the profile? The intentions here are good, but in my opinion this path involves the development of complex and sophisticated provisioning tools. This is simply a new programming approach that aims to reduce complexity, but doesn’t guarantee it. As such, many wonder if this is the right strategy.
- Fabric-Based Architecture: This option involves maintaining a distributed control plane and reducing the legacy multi-protocol dependency while benefiting from centralized management (orchestration). The simplification of the control plane is a much better approach: fix the problem, don’t try to mask it. Simplicity allows businesses to become that much more nimble, dynamic and competitive. We’ve been seeing a lot of startups lately working to rebuild the control plane too, hence the market is starting to come to the same conclusion, but Avaya has already delivered it, making it a key competitive differentiator.
Let’s be honest, there are pros and cons to both traditional SDN and fabric-based architecture. At the end of the day, what’s most important is that business leaders are educated on their choices in order to make informed decisions that are best for their organizations, while choosing the path that will meet their business needs TODAY—not years from now based on promises!
If you’re looking for more resources to help shape your software-based strategy, check out these blogs:
- SD-N and SD-WAN Come Together to Offer Agile Cloud Services
- Is Your Approach to SDN Putting Lipstick on Your Networking Pig?
- Avaya Software-Defined Networking 1.0 — Doing It Differently
Coming up: Part 3 of our series will take a look at the bigger picture of complete digital transformation and what that looks like across multiple verticals.