Meet Your Business Challenges with Digital-Ready, Intelligent and Adaptive Networks
One key theme dominates today’s enterprise IT mandate: an ever-increasing pressure to provide the technology, network speeds and expertise required to support diverse devices, increase employee productivity and deliver exceptional customer experiences. A Frost & Sullivan study recently found that 81% of IT decision makers at organizations investing in digital initiatives cited improved business productivity as a key driver.
As enterprises deploy the emerging technologies to make this vision a reality—including Internet of Things (IoT) devices, increased mobility, big data and analytics applications and cybersecurity solutions—IT leaders are left asking an important question: can your existing enterprise wide area network (WAN) support the rapidly growing stream of data, applications and bandwidth demands required to make it happen?
IT leaders who embrace automation, intelligent networking solutions, embedded network security and strategic partnerships with managed service providers are laying the foundation for long-term technological and economic success. As IT departments begin implementing new networking strategies, they’re turning toward tools like software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions as one pathway to help build the adaptive networks needed to deliver these experiences at scale.
Legacy Technology and Delivering the Networking Experience Audiences Expect
Not long ago, enterprises relied on inflexible, purpose-built wide area networks to meet their immediate needs. Today, these networks present an obstacle to the speed and adaptive environments that leading applications demand. Cutting-edge business experiences—whether they’re business-to-business or brand-to-consumer—are fueled by data. Enterprises are operating in environments with more data coming from more sources than ever before, with shorter windows to process, analyze and act on the information. Traditional approaches to WAN architecture with their inflexible protocols, proprietary hardware and complex management simply aren’t able to adapt to today’s fast-changing enterprise IT demands.
From the real-time data needed to deliver a seamless customer experience to enabling multi-location collaboration across your business, network performance is at the core of progress. Enterprises need a strategy for adaptive, digital networks that can scale and offer these experiences throughout the organization—on-demand, intelligent and secure.
What’s it going to take for companies to quickly acquire, analyze and act on that data?
Today’s IT leaders are working hard to address what the evolution of networks from individual, static segments to dynamic, integrated platforms means for their businesses. 59% of IT decision makers note that faster provisioning of WAN services is critical for adapting to business needs.
Software-defined solutions transform static WANs to programmable platforms, with more intuitive management that makes it easier for you and your team to analyze, prioritize and deliver workloads over flexible, scalable and secure networks that can quickly adapt to shifting priorities. SD-WAN, for example, removes the burden of managing multiple access providers by creating overlay network decoupled from the wide area network, links and hardware. It allows your team to take advantage of all available WAN connections and proactively manages traffic at the application layer so that it can dynamically choose the best available path.
Adaptive networking allows enterprises to procure bandwidth (across hybrid WAN services) and related network functions in an on-demand manner, and centrally define, configure and manage network policy administration for faster response.
What Adaptive Networks Mean for Today’s Enterprise
Everything we know points to a future where data workloads and applications are the currency that drives the enterprise forward, and networking is the engine that powers it. Research from Frost and Sullivan projects the number of connected devices alone will reach 60 billion by 2024, for example. As data cycles change and data is acquired, analyzed and acted on in one continuous motion to power everything from automated vehicles to customer interactions, enterprise networks will power almost every aspect of the business and human experience.
For IT leaders, embracing SDN powered solutions reduces networking complexity and turns technology into a core competitive advantage. What are the top priorities and benefits that IT decision makers are focusing on in their quests to build adaptive networks?
Harnessing data more effectively with software-defined solutions: Data is at the heart of every interaction, and SD-enabled solutions make it easier to enable real-time adaptive network response. One IT leader noted in an interview that after implementing SD-enabled solutions, business innovation accelerated. The organization’s analytic request queues went from hours to less than a minute. In a landscape where data-driven decision making is critical across the enterprise, the ability of the network to access and analyze packet-flows and quickly react to changing needs at the network level can make a profound difference.
Improve operations and visibility with better network controls: Greater efficiency and control starts with better visibility and operational tools. SD-WAN tools are one option to bring greater visibility, control and rules-based management efficiencies that allow your IT team to deliver better network-based results, in less time. Studies show that centralized SD-WAN management can boost performance by up to 29%. Software-defined architecture gives IT administrators the tools to monitor application performance, make real-time changes and adapt network performance to the organization’s most important priorities.
Leverage managed services to close knowledge gaps: A lack of specific in-house talent or tight IT budgets are no longer a barrier to building an adaptive network. Enterprise IT leaders are partnering with managed and co-managed SD-WAN solutions providers for the tools, technology and expertise to upgrade networks, for example. These solutions offer support for adaptive networking along the product lifespan. An SD-WAN managed services provider can preconfigure specific network end-points or develop and deliver all networking aspects needed to efficiently connect a new branch location. IT leaders are overcoming the barriers of lack of practical expertise or specialized IT resources and mitigating the risks associated with modernizing the network through managed services solutions, while keeping hiring costs in check.
Automation streamlines workloads for lean IT teams: We’re in the middle of one of the greatest IT talent shortages in history, reports HRDive, and IT leaders have identified it as a threat to their organization’s sustainability. The right networking solutions can help. Approaches such as software-defined networking solutions and network functions virtualization (NFV) are taking pressure off, and turning adaptive networks into a key strategy for alleviating IT-focused human capital challenges. 78% of the IT decision makers in the Frost & Sullivan WAN survey indicated “improve operational efficiency,” and 55% indicated “reduce technology costs” as key business drivers for their digital transformation initiatives. Intelligent automation, rules-based management and embedded cybersecurity eliminate unwieldy workloads and allow even the leanest IT departments to achieve their most critical goals.
Intelligent networks support technology innovation: When one of your business units needs to adopt a specific application to stay competitive with the market or compliant with fast-changing regulations, you’re expected to be at the table determining how to make it happen quickly, efficiently and without disrupting the customer experience. Organizations count customer response times and improved employee productivity as top areas for operational improvement. Adaptive networking virtualizes multiple network functions, including load balancing, routing and security onto a single device, creating the efficiencies needed to let your IT team act as strategic advisors across the enterprise.
Adaptive networks improve security: Enterprise IT leaders are concerned about today’s increasingly complex security threats, and in a study by ESG Global of enterprise cybersecurity experts, “most survey respondents believe that most organizations are either extremely vulnerable (39%) or somewhat vulnerable (52%) to a significant cyber-attack or data breach.” SD-WAN solutions, for example, provide important cybersecurity support and embedded intelligence. 76% of IT decision makers in the Frost & Sullivan SD-WAN study consider the ability to apply granular security policies an important reason to deploy SD-WAN.
With SD-WAN solutions, enterprises apply rules-based security policies to each application guiding network response to threats in real-time. Adaptive threat intelligence constantly monitors network packets to identify and respond appropriately to cybersecurity risks and threats. Adaptive networks identify, capture and act on security issues in the network—before they ever affect performance.
Companies that developed an adaptive network strategy are demonstrating why the ability to process, analyze and leverage data in real-time is critical in today’s business landscape. Enterprise IT leaders are increasingly embracing automation, intelligent networking solutions, embedded network security and strategic partnerships with managed service providers to support network modernization. For organizations that are contemplating the best way forward—from how to create winning customer experiences to supporting better employee productivity—focusing on adaptive networking is the keystone to a successful path into the digital future.
See how CenturyLink can help accelerate your path to success and help your enterprise build an adaptive network.
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