Networking Your Way Up Through the Digital Transformation
No longer a supporting player, the enterprise network is becoming a critical asset. Businesses must change the way they think about the network to keep up with the times.
Hard as it may be to believe, the digital transformation of the economy has only just begun. Sure we’ve had computerized workspaces since the 1980s and the Internet since the 1990s, but in terms of business models, revenue generation and collaborative work, it is only in the last few years that the business world has been defined by its digital underpinnings, not just enhanced by them.
Verizon offered up a good analysis of the emerging digital economy and how it will affect the enterprise network recently. In short, the network is the lynchpin of the new business model. It bears the responsibility of connecting users, applications, resources and data across increasingly distributed and diverse infrastructure. The report contains a survey of leading IT executives, two-thirds of whom say that legacy networks are inhibiting success and that a soup-to-nuts transformation is needed in order to maintain a competitive advantage in an increasingly connected world. Simple connectivity, it seems, is no longer good enough. The new network needs to align directly with business needs and network autonomy will be a core asset of any digitally focused enterprise.
To that end, Verizon has teamed up with network consultant Cognizant to help businesses navigate through this digital transformation. The idea is to match Verizon’s expertise in IoT connectivity and management with Cognizant’s skill in deployment and integration to help clients identify the opportunities and the challenges of this new facet of competition. Details are still a bit sketchy, but it will likely involve everything from technology upgrades and integration to advanced business process support and the means to enhance the customer experiences. The companies are planning to mount large-scale demonstrations at Verizon’s Innovation Centers in San Francisco and Waltham, MA, highlighting the links between wired and wireless networking, social media, analytics, cloud computing and other enterprise technology trends.
The enterprise will also need to recognize that the digital transformation will not rest on a single network or network architecture, but many, according to a recent report from Frost & Sullivan. Hybrid networks are already emerging as de facto solutions in distributed enterprise settings, incorporating wired and mobile solutions, physical and virtual layers, hardware and software definition and a wide range of open and proprietary solution. The main challenge will be to manage this collection as a single entity, providing common access and security, visibility control and, increasingly, automation. As more disparate elements are added to the new networking environment, the risk of system incompatibility and unauthorized access increases.
This is why many organizations are already shifting their thinking away from systems and resources to platforms, says Gartner. In a survey of nearly 3,000 CIOs at the recent Gartner Symposium and ITxpo in Orlando, the firm discovered that hardened business and operational models will not long survive in an increasingly connected world. A much more flexible approach is needed. By thinking in terms of platforms, organizations will be much more adept at compiling the various resources, networking included, to address the fast-moving and often ephemeral opportunities that rise and fall in a digital economy. A key component of all this is the bimodal IT approach, in which business platforms are tailored to deal with both predictable and exploratory functions.
Some may argue that the enterprise network has been in a constant state of change since its inception. While this is technically true, it fails to recognize the magnitude of what is happening now. No longer is the focus simply on getting faster, less expensive and less complex, but on the ways in which emerging networks will re-invent businesses, markets and entire economies from the ground up.
Organizations that are not already looking at their network and wondering how it must change to confront this new reality are already way behind the curve.
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Arthur Cole covers networking and the data center for IT Business Edge. He has served as editor of numerous publications covering everything from audio/video production and distribution, multimedia and the Internet to video gaming.