For any organization that uses digital technology, the network acts as a central nervous system, allowing information to flow throughout the enterprise. However, despite the network (opens in a new tab) being such a vital operational body, for many companies it is becoming less and less capable of directing the ever-increasing volume and diversity of data that connects people and things.
Yesterday’s networks are often inflexible and difficult to reconfigure or manage. In the face of organizations’ growing expectations for their efficiency and ability to seamlessly support increasingly distributed workforces, the rapid growth of IoT devices, and the ever-present need to maintain cybersecurity (opens in a new tab): today’s networks are in serious need of modernization.
Network modernization can equip businesses to meet all kinds of challenges, from operations to security (opens in a new tab) – especially as they accelerate their digital transformation. In fact, in order to support today’s changing business models, network modernization is not only necessary, it is vital.
When networks can’t keep up
Not only can poor networks cause their own bottlenecks, but trying to adapt them to today’s new demands can also create serious operational challenges.
For example, scaling networks to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of users and devices across locations and connection types is an extremely manual process when attempted on a network that does not hasn’t been modernized, which often results in performance issues and unhappy users.
Combine this with limited IT staff resources and it means too often too much time and energy is wasted on basic moves, adds and changes, leaving few resources to focus on strategic business initiatives. . Finally, without a strong network security foundation, protection breaches are also more likely. Fortunately, there are several ways for an organization to modernize their networks now and create something that not only meets today’s expectations, but can also be a bridge to the future.
5 principles to respect
Network modernization is not a destination but a journey – an ongoing process that businesses must undertake.
With the emergence of hybrid work (opens in a new tab)modern networks must now perform as well and integrate across the full spectrum of possible workplaces, employees (opens in a new tab) from homes to offices and campuses, as well as data centers and the cloud. At the same time, they must provide a new edge-centric, cloud-enabled, and data-driven architectural approach.
This is undoubtedly a big project for a business of any size, but it can be managed effectively by focusing on five key areas aimed at delivering gains in performance, automation, security and agility. .
1. Connectivity and scale
Remote work (opens in a new tab), IoT and new emerging business models in the post-pandemic world are creating hyper-distributed work environments. For older networks based on a traditional VLAN architecture, this creates the scaling problem discussed earlier – networks struggling to accommodate the potentially enormous number of users and devices spread over such a large variety of locations. This is why new protocols and architectures will be essential for scale and connectivity.
There are a few things that can be done to make this easier. First, choosing to use a cloud-native solution, whether your organization consumes it in the cloud or on-premises, can add much-needed agility and speed. At the same time, modernizing WAN solutions with SD-WAN can be another important step, providing greater flexibility, efficiency and lower costs. The key is to select an approach that doesn’t require completely replacing the current infrastructure, but finding solutions that can co-exist with your current architecture.
2. AI-powered automation
Let’s face it, the scale of modern networks and the data they create is far beyond anything we humans can monitor on our own, let alone troubleshoot or optimize. This, coupled with the scarcity of IT people, means teams are stretched. The answer? Automation – or more specifically AI-powered operations automation, also known as AIOps.
AIOps will allow IT teams to automate repetitive time-consuming tasks, such as configuration management, while focusing on more strategic tasks. From zero-day deployment to N-day ongoing management, AIOps offers organizations a real, tangible way to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their network operations.
So what should companies be aware of when implementing AIOps? First, reassure the staff. AIOps can be a major culture shift and can leave some staff worried about their jobs. Decision makers should therefore assure their teams that automation is in place to help reduce the time and effort they have to spend on mundane tasks, not to replace them. Then start small to test how AI solutions work in your work environment. Remember that AI is useful in many situations, but it is by no means perfect.
With today’s network having to accommodate diverse and ever-changing users and devices, effective and up-to-date security is absolutely vital, but legacy networks with manual processes can be prone to human error and vulnerabilities.
IT teams can counter this by integrating network and security functions with Zero Trust Security and SASE frameworks. The fundamental principle of these frameworks is that access permissions are completely independent of the connection method. Zero Trust ensures that all devices and users accessing a network are identified and authenticated before providing any access through predefined security policies. Organizations should insist that Zero Trust and SASE are built into their network solutions rather than simply added retroactively – providing consistent policies and control to allow the network to more easily discover, identify and authenticate devices and users.
4. Flexibility and agility
Rapidly changing business goals require a network that can adapt quickly and automatically to new or changing conditions. Unfortunately, many organizations today are constrained by a patchwork of disparate network management solutions, creating operational friction and dangerous silos.
Cloud-native solutions can not only provide a single point of visibility and control over wired, wireless, and WAN, but also help businesses maintain their competitive advantage by delivering continuous updates and new features. If your organization hasn’t started implementing the cloud for network management, start small and be selective. Choose a project or part of your network that would benefit from centralized control and visibility in the cloud. A good place to start is remote work environments where creating the same experience for hybrid workers as those in the office is paramount.
5. Use as a service
With tight budgets, many organizations face the challenge of how to finance the rapid acquisition, implementation and management of new network solutions.
Fortunately, the emergence of alternative consumption and deployment models, such as self-provided or managed services, means this challenge may soon be a thing of the past. The Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) approach quickly delivers new network solutions while allowing organizations to review budgets or adjust scalability as needed. With NaaS models, organizations can ease the burden on IT teams and the time needed for network planning and budgeting by providing hardware, software, and services under a monthly subscription.
As a first step, assess the potential that a subscription-based approach or flexible funding can offer your organization and whether your provider has the resources to support a meaningful as-a-service model, including whether it is These are standard or customized service offerings.
Why Upgrading Your Network Is Worth It
Network modernization may, at first glance, appear to be simply an exercise in updating your current infrastructure, but it is much more than that. It is an essential ongoing process that not only keeps your business up to date with the latest technologies, but provides an agile foundation to advance your ability to implement digital transformation by leveraging new approaches to security. , management, architecture and delivery.
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